Pojoaque Preps For Ruidoso After Taking Second At Ben Lujan

poj team blujan (2)
The Pojoaque Valley High School boys basketball team took second place at the Ben Lujan basketball tournament hosted by Pojoaque Valley. The Elks lost to Bernalillo High School 71-55 Dec. 22 in the championship game. Team members are: Marcos Vigil (front,left), Nathan Valdez, Diego Trujillo, Zach Hall, Dante Ortiz, Diego Martinez, Andrew Garcia. Lukus Archibeque, Sean Aragon, Jacen Lujan.

Pojoaque Preps For Ruidoso After Taking Second At Ben Lujan Invitational tournament

By George Morse

The Pojoaque Valley boys basketball team prepared to take on the Ruidoso High School Warriors Jan. 3 in the opening round of the Mountain Madness Shootout after a snowy week of practice in Northern New Mexico. The Elks have shown signs of improvement. Pojoaque picked up a couple of victories at the Ben Lujan Invitational tournament hosted by Pojoaque Valley before losing to Bernalillo High School in the championship game.

It was a hard-fought overtime win over a tenacious Escalante High School Dec. 20 in the opening round of the Ben Lujan tournament for the Elks. The Lobos were looking to take down the tournament host and played tight defense throughout the game. Free-throw shooting proved to be the difference in the first half, as the Lobos sank just 1-of-6 from the charity stripe, while the Elks went 8-of-10 that included 7-of-8 by Nathan Valdez. Escalante led 11-8 at the end of the first quarter and 19-18 at halftime.

Pojoaque made up the difference in the third quarter as both teams struggled to score. The lobos got a pair of three-pointers from Randy Ferrell, while Pojoaque continued to shoot well from the free-throw line, sinking all four or their attempts. Escalante continued to be cold and missed all three of their charity tosses. The score was tied 27-27 going into the fourth quarter.

Pojoaque was 7-of-8 from the free throw-line in the fourth quarter and had taken a 37-33 lead. Escalante’s Anthony Ulibarri came up with a steal and layup, then finally canned 2-of-2 from the free-throw line to tie the score with 2:37 left in the game. Escalante missed several shots that could have given them the lead, but could get nothing to fall. Pojoaque had possession with 18 seconds left to play, but turned the ball over following a timeout. The score was tied 37-37 at the end of regulation.

With the score tied 39-39 in the four minute overtime period, Pojoaque found success from beyond the three-point arc. Dante Ortiz canned a long one from the top of the key, then Lukus Archibeque nailed another from the wing. That separation proved to be the key, as the Elks took a 47-39 lead and held off the Lobos for a 47-43 victory.

Pojoaque faced Menaul High School Dec. 21 in the semifinals and it was a battle for three quarters. Menaul led 13-11 at the end of the first quarter and 23-22 at halftime. In the third quarter, Pojoaque put together a 6-0 run that ended with a steal and layup by Valdez that gave Pojoaque a 28-23 lead. Menaul rallied to tie the score on anold-fashioned, three-point play by Dereck Pyle. A three-pointer by Ortiz put Pojoaque ahead and the Elks never trailed again. Menaul had crept to within a point of Pojoaque 33-32when a pair of freethrows by Ortiz kicked off an 8-0 run by the Elks that gave Pojoaque a 41-32 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The score was 45-41 in favor of the Elks after a three-pointer by Pyle. Ortiz scored and that started a nine-point run by Pojoaque that was finished off by five points from Sean Aragon, who was fouled sinking a layup. He made one free throw to complete the old-fashioned , three-point play. He then sank both ends of a technical foul that was called on Menaul. That gave the Elks a 55-41 lead and Menaul never recovered. Pojoaque went on to a 57-45 victory.

In the championship game Dec. 22, the Elks battled the Spartans, who were the defending tournament champions. It looked like Bernalillo was headed for an easy victory after the Spartans took a 17-6 lead at the end of the first quarter, sinking three-three-pointers. The Spartans were leading 24-13 when the Elks turned the game around, puttig together a 13-0 run fueled by steals  that led to layups by Nathan Valdez and a three-point play by Marcos Vigil. Pojoaque took a 26-24 lead. Menaul came back to take a 27-26 lead by halftime. In the third quarter, the Spartans rode the hot hand of Reyes Herrera, who poured in 11 points, scoring from beyond the arc, from the free-throw line and from the field. The Elks were able to stay with Bernalillo initially as Ortiz nailed a pair of three-pointers and Aragon added another, but once Pojoaque cooled down Herrera stayed hot. He scored the final five points of the third quarter to give the Spartans a 49-39 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Herrera stayed hot in the beginning of the final quarter and helped the Spartans take a 57-42 lead. A rare four-point play by Bernalillo’s Gabriel Prarie, who was fouled sinking a three-pointer and then sank the ensuing free throw, gave Bernalillo a 62-46 lead. The Elks never recovered and lost 71-55 to the Spartans.

Herrera finished with 29 points and earned the tournament’s high-point award by scoring a total of 79 points during in three games at the tournament.. Ortiz led Pojoaque with 14 points against the Spartans.

Pojoaque has just one senior and the young Elks are still learning. Coach Thomas Vigil feels that Pojoaque is better but needs to improve.

“We played well for about 26 minutes,” Coach Vigil said. “We were there for a bit and we were riding it for a while.”

After facing Ruidoso Jan. 3 in the opening round of the Mountain Madness tournament, the Elks will face Silver High School Jan. 4 and then wrap up the Round Robin format tournament Jan. 5 playing Goddard High School from Roswell.  

All five members of the Pojoaque Valley boys basketball team watch and wait for a rebound against the Menaul Panthers in the semifinals of the Ben Lujan tournament. Pojoaque defeated Menaul 57-45 to advance to the championship game. 

The Bernalillo High School boys basketball team defeated Pojoaque Valley High School 71-55 in the championship game of the Ben Lujan basket ball tournament Dec. 22 at Pojoaque.