Mike Powers| News-Bulletin photos
Isaiah Juarez, in white, made a key three pointer to help Los Lunas defeat Alamogordo in overtime during a first round 5A playoff game.

Round of 16 high school basketball playoff action in Valencia County was wild last weekend, with the Valencia girls and Los Lunas boys earning trips to the New Mexico State Championships after overtime victories.  

A successful season for the LLHS girls ended with a loss in Farmington.  


Valencia Jaguars 

In 4A girls, No. 8 Valencia (19-11) reached the Pit by overcoming a double-digit Lovington lead, overtime and a power outage that knocked out the lights at the VHS gymnasium.    

The Wildcats, seeded ninth, jumped to a 7-0 lead and extended it to 27-15 midway through the second quarter. It was cut to 27-20 at the half.   

In the third quarter, Jadyn Montoya hit a pair of three-pointers, including an off-balance dagger at the buzzer to tie the game 31-31 heading into the fourth quarter.    

From there, fans held their breath, with neither team grabbing an advantage. Jaiden Montgomery kept the Jaguars in it, with free throws, a steal and a basket plus a midrange jumper to put Valencia up 43-40 with less than two minutes to go.   

That’s when the lights went out, causing a more than a 10-minute delay.  

Valencia’s Jaiden Montgomery fought through some contact and scored 24 points in the Jaguars’ overtime victory against Lovington in the first round of the 4A state playoffs.

“I was very confused,” said Montgomery. “I didn’t know what was happening. Yeah, it was a mess.”   

Montgomery credited the coaching staff with keeping the players focused.  

“The shirts say it all: ‘Control the controllable,’” said coach Raymond Montoya about the moto placed on team shirts.    

When the lights came back on, both teams were composed, with Lovington converting free throws to force overtime. Free throws by Montgomery, who had 24 points, and Montoya, put VHS up by five points, helping secure a 55-52 victory. 

“It was definitely an intense game,” Montgomery said. “They came out ready to play but, I think, we held our composure very well and pulled it off.”   

The Jaguars advance to the 4A quarterfinals for a second straight year and will play No. 1 Kirtland Central (26-3) at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, in the Pit in Albuquerque.   

Montoya believes an upset is possible.  

“Anything can happen in there,” Montoya said. “We’ve seen them this year,” a 66-58 loss. “We’re ready to compete with anybody.”  


Los Lunas Tigers 

In sports, a contest can occasionally be ugly and pretty at the same time. Case in point was Saturday’s Los Lunas overtime victory against No. 10 Alamogordo in the 5A Round of 16 boys’ state tournament game.    

The “ugly” was 31 fouls charged to visiting Alamogordo, including five technical fouls, four assessed to players and one to head coach Jeremy Knee.  

The “pretty” was a series of outstanding individual performances by players on both teams.    

For host No. 7 LLHS, senior point guard Rex Kinsey opened the game with a three-pointer and was a calming influence during the teams’ shaky first half, especially with Jalin Holland picking up three fouls. Los Lunas trailed 27-25 at the break.    

AHS dealt with foul trouble up and down the roster, exacerbated by the technical fouls that led to a player’s ejection. 

In one third quarter sequence, Los Lunas shot six straight free throws, two on a personal foul, four on technical fouls. That was followed by a three-pointer from Isaiah Juarez to build the LLHS led to 40-31.   

However, Alamogordo showed plenty of grit. When Jason Warren, who had 16 points, scored on a three-point play, AHS took a 42-41 lead heading into the fourth quarter.    

“They fought like hell,” said LLHS coach Travis Julian. “That’s a talented group of kids over there.”   

Alamogordo maintained a narrow lead until Juarez nailed a three from the corner with just over a minute to play in regulation, sending the game into overtime.  

“It was a huge shot,” Julian said. “He’s come so far.”   

With Los Lunas up 56-55, Jalin Holland drove hard to the basket, rolled the shot in off the glass and was fouled. From there, LLHS posted a 61-55 victory.   

“It was chaotic, a chaotic game,” is how Holland described it. “It really came down to composure and sticking together with your team.”  

Holland had an off-shooting night but still led Los Lunas with 20 points.    

“Whenever you get in a game like that, you lean on your experience,” said Julian, who praised seniors Juarez and Kinsey. “I thought Rex was a rock tonight. It was a physical, in-your-face game. Both teams took their blows, took their hits. You just had to persevere.”   

That perseverance has earned LLHS (20-9) a return trip to the Pit and a Wednesday quarterfinal game against No. 2 Organ Mountain (27-1). Los Lunas lost two close games to the Knights around the first of the year.  

“We know we’ve got our work cut out for us,” said Julian. “They’re deep, they’re talented. They play intensely and are well coached.”   


Los Lunas Tigers (girls) 

The season came to an end for the Los Lunas girls’ Friday after a 75-45 loss at No. 3 Farmington in an opening round game of the 5A basketball tournament.  

The Tigers, seeded 14th, only trailed 14-13 after the first quarter, but LLHS coach Manny Vigil said the Scorpions went on scoring spurts in each quarter after that.  

While Farmington (25-4) was red hot, Los Lunas (19-11) had trouble putting the ball in the basket, although eighth-grader Kayla Finley contributed 16 points and nine rebounds.   

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Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.