Northern New Mexico basketball is alive and well.Through four quarters, the Taos Tigers and Española Valley Sundevils battled on Thursday (Feb. 6) in a packed …
Northern New Mexico basketball is alive and well.
Through four quarters, the Taos Tigers and Española Valley Sundevils battled on Thursday (Feb. 6) in a packed Otero Gymnasium - and the fans louder than ever.
By the end of regulation, it was Taos who came away with a big victory, 58-51, to keep its undefeated record in District 2-4A alive.
"It's a blessing, man," Abdul Khweis said when asked how big the fans were on Thursday. "We love the support. Let's keep it coming."
Most impressive, the Tigers were able to keep their composure throughout the game and play remarkable defense. Taos used a mix of full-court pressure and on-ball traps that, for the most part, kept them in the lead in the most critical moments of the game.
Taos (17-5, 4-0), who is without Noah Armijo for the rest of the season, played well with a smaller starting lineup that consisted of Khweis, Angel Limas, Isiah Jeantete, Anthony Padilla and Edgar Varela.
Head coach Hernando Chavez said that his team had solid practices all throughout the week leading up to their game with Española Valley, and that was a big reason why they came away with an important victory.
"I thought we played very balanced tonight," Chavez said.
Limas put Taos on the board first when he scored on a layup after having grabbed an offensive rebound off of Khweis' missed attempt.
But Española Valley kept pace with Taos in the early going, and even had its press figured out momentarily.
The Sundevils came out firing from beyond the arc and had three shots fall in the first quarter. One of those shots from 3-point range came from Garrett May, who had hit it with a defender in his face.
Padilla didn't slow down at all for the Tigers when it came to shooting 3-pointers of his own, as he hit three of them including one in the first quarter.
The other two 3-pointers from Padilla came in the third quarter, when Taos started to pull away for good.
"We know Anthony [Padilla] is a good shooter," Chavez said. "We've known since the beginning of the year that if he gets going, he's going to be dangerous."
The Sundevils (13-8, 3-1) kept shooting 3-pointers throughout much of the second quarter, though only one landed. Both teams didn't score much throughout the frame, with Taos adding 12 points and the Sundevils adding 11 points, respectively.
Up 30-29 coming out of the half, the Tigers came out firing and got a big 3-pointer from Padilla, who was beautifully assisted by Valera just seconds into the frame.
Then, about three minutes into the quarter, Padilla hit his third 3-pointer and it put Taos up 36-30 and to which the crowd loudly erupted with cheers.
The Tigers continued their dominance into the fourth quarter, and in the first 15 seconds had recorded two steals and got five points all from Khweis to extend their lead to 47-35.
"We weren't causing lots of turnovers off of our press," Chavez said. "But we felt like it was wearing them down. It's a cumulative effect. It's going to take its toll. You might not see it in the first or second quarter, but you'll see it in the third or fourth."
Later in the frame, the Sundevils tried to make a comeback of their own and went on a 7-0 run to bring the game within single digits. It didn't happen
The Tigers, who were already getting ready for victory formation with the clock running down, had the support of the fans in the final moments. As the Sundevils had the ball on an offensive possession, and right before a timeout was called, the fans in the student section chanted "start the buses."
Khweis led all scorers with 18 points. Padilla added 11 points and Limas had 10 points for the Tigers.
With just four games left in district action, Chavez knows the importance of maintaining focus.
"I think today we took a big step forward," Chavez said. "But all the teams in the district are playing at a really high level, so you can't sleep."
The Tigers were to face Pojoaque Valley at home on Wednesday (Feb. 12). That game happened after this story went to press.
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