By George Morse
The Pojoaque High School boys basketball team suffered a gut-wrenching 67-65 overtime loss Jan. 25 against the Taos High School Tigers at Ben Lujan Gym in Pojoaque. The Elks led nearly the entire game in regulation. A three-pointer at the buzzer by Taos had tied the game 65-65 to send it into overtime. In the overtime period. Pojoaque had missed an open three-pointer and had possession of the ball with the score still standing at 65-65 and 43.5 seconds left in overtime.
After a timeout, Pojoaque apparently inbounded the ball successfully. However, the recipient of the inbounds pass had run out-of-bounds prior to receiving the pass. That was a violation, giving possession to the Tigers.
The Tigers successfully inbounded the ball and got it into the hands of Abdul Khweis, who had made the game-tying three-pointer. He drove to the basket. As the defense swarmed to stop him, he dished off to Taos post Noah Armijo. Armijo was open and banked in a point-blank layup to give Taos the lead with 22.9 seconds left.
On the Elks ensuing possession, Pojoaque passed the ball around the perimeter as the seconds ran off. With time running out, Sean Aragon drove into the lane to the basket. His shot was smothered, but he drew a foul with 1.3 seconds left. Aragon would shoot two free throws.
When Aragon’s first free throw rolled off the rim, everyone knew that he would deliberately miss the second. The ball came off the front of the rim back into the lane. Taos grabbed the rebound and hung on for the 67-65 victory.
“Credit the heart and the character of those young men in the locker room,” Taos Coach Hernando Chavez said. “They fought.”
Pojoaque had done almost everything they could to defend their home court and win the District 2-4A game.
“Taos made one more play than we did,” Pojoaque Coach Thomas Vigil said.
The Elks jumped all over the Tigers at the start. Aragon scored the game’s first seven points and the Tigers turned the ball over and couldn’t put the ball in the basket. The lead grew to 14-0 before Taos put points on the board with a three-pointer by Edgar Varela. Another three-pointer by Noah De la Cruz put Pojoaque ahead 21-3. The Elks led 21-8 at the end of the first quarter.
Taos tried to chip away at the lead in the second quarter, but still seemed rattled by the Elks’ blazing start. The Tigers missed the front end of three straight one-and-one opportunities from the foul line. Khweis, the Tigers’ leading scorer, was being held in check and he missed three straight free throws. The Elks didn’t take full advantage and were just 2-of-6 from the free-throw line. Pojoaque was able to maintain that initial 14-point lead. The Elks were ahead 35-21 at halftime.
Taos started to make some progress in the third quarter. A 7-0 run made the score 36-30 in favor of Pojoaque. The Elks answered with a 10-4 run. Aragon started it, sinking three free throws after being fouled beyond the arc. Dela Cruz finished it with a three-pointer. Two free throws by Marcos Vigil gave Pojoaque a 48-36 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Khweis went to work in the fourth quarter. With the Elks leading 50-37, he scored Taos next nine points. He began with an old-fashioned, three-point play and finished with a three-pointer that made the score 52-46 in favor of the Elks. Lukus Archibeque scored the Elks’ next seven points, including 4-of-4 from the free-throw lineA steal and layup by Nathan Valdez gave Pojoaque a 61-53 lead.
A three-pointer by Varela made the score 62-58 with 1:11 left in regulation. Pojoaque’s Rob Martinez sank a free throw. Khweis answered with a basket. After the Elk missed two free throws, Taos’ Angel Limas sank a pair of free throws to make the score 63-62 in favor of Pojoaque. Valdez, who had missed two previous free throws, was fouled. This time, he sank both his shots to give P0joaque a 65-62 lead with 20 seconds left to play.
Taos got the ball into the hands of Khweis, who launched a three-pointer from the left wing. The shot was too strong and came off the rim along the baseline. Varela fought for the rebound and ended up on the floor, but got the ball back out to Khweis. This time, his three-pointer hit nothing but net to send the game into overtime.
“Give credit to Varela for his hustle,” Khweis said. “We needed a three. Once I released it, I knew it was going in.”
In overtime, Armijo delivered the dagger that tore Pojoaque’s heart.
Khweis finished with 27 points, 17 coming in the fourth quarter. Varela had 12 points on four three-pointers. Armijo finished with 10 points.
Aragon led Pojoaque with 19 points. Archibeque had 14 points for Pojoaque. De la Cruz scored 11 points for the Elks.
It was Taos’ District 2-4A opener. The Tigers are 1-0 in district play and 13-5 overall.
“It’s just one win in an eight-game (district) season,” Coach Chavez said. “I really don’t feel there’s a bad team in our district. I think you’ll see a lot of games like this.”
Pojoaque falls to 0-2 in District 2-4A after losing its District 2-4A opener 70-57 toEspanola Valley High School Jan.23 at Espanola. The Elks are 6-13 overall. Pojoaque travels to Moriarty High School Friday (Jan. 31) for its next District 2-4A game.