Elks Pick up Hard-Fought Victory in Semifinals, Fall to Bernalillo in Championship Game

by Staff Reporter / Dec 19, 2017 / 0 comments
The Pojoaque Valley boys basketball team took second place at the Ben Lujan Tournament. The Elks defeated Santa Fe Indian School 57-56 in the semifinals and lost to Bernalillo 74-46 in the championship game. Photo courtesy of Marcos Herrera.

Elks Pick up Hard-Fought Victory in Semifinals, Fall to Bernalillo in Championship Game

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

The Pojoaque Valley High School boys basketball team picked up its first two victories of the season at the Ben Lujan Tournament hosted by Pojoaque Valley at Ben Lujan Gym. The first was a laugher Dec. 14 in the opening round 43-12 over undermanned Desert Academy. With just five players on their roster, the Wildcats were no match for the Elks. Desert Academy ended up losing a player after Pojoaque game and was forced to withdraw from the tournament with just four players left. The Pojoaque boys junior varsity replaced them for the rest of the tournament.

The second victory in the semifinals Dec. 15 was just what a team that’s rebuilding after losing most of its starting lineup to graduation and that is trying to adjust to a first-year head coach in Thomas Vigil needed. The Elks pulled out a hard-fought victory over Santa Fe Indian School 57-56 in overtime.

“I don’t have a voice left, but I’m smiling,” Pojoaque Coach Vigil said. “This was a good test for us. There’s going to be plenty more games this season where having nerves of steel and ice in our veins will be crucial.”

Indian School had led 12-9 at the end of the first quarter. In the second quarter, the Braves built a 13-point lead and led 24-11. The Elks managed to shave a few points off Indian School’s lead and Pojoaque trailed 28-20 at halftime.

The third quarter did not start well for the Elks. A steal and layup by Jason Abeyta helped the Braves take a 31-20 lead. Pojoaque point guard Avery Torrez picked up his third and then his fourth personal foul in a matter of seconds and had to take a seat on the bench.

However, the Elks came back. Isaiah Herrera hit two free throws, then canned a three-pointer. A pair of free throws by JP Lyon finished off a 7-0 run by the Elks to make the score 31-27 in favor of the Braves.

Pojoaque’s JP Lyon watches his shot against Santa Fe Indian School. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Indian School took a 39-32 lead after a three pointer by Raheem Alonzo.  Pojoaque narrowed the lead down to three points after a pair of baskets by Isaac Roybal and the Elks trailed 41-38 heading into the fourth quarter.

Pojoaque’s Isaac Roybal drives to the basket. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Indian School missed three straight free throws and that opened the door for Pojoaque to come back and tie the score 43-43 after a basket by Diego Trujillo. Indian School took a 45-43 lead after two free throws by Anders Pecos with 1:21 left to play in regulation.

Pojoaque’s Diego Trujillo dishes the ball off to a teammate around Bernalillo’s Solomon Fragua. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

It looked good for Indian School after a Pojoaque committed a turnover. Pojoaque got the ball back when Trujillo drew a charge. With 37.5 seconds left, a free throw by Lyon cut Indian School’s lead to one point.

The Braves had a chance to extend their lead with 25.2 seconds left, but Abeyta missed the front end of a one-and-one. A free throw by Roybal tied the score. The game was tied 45-45 at the end of regulation.

Indian School took a 48-45 lead at 3:25 of the four–minute overtime on an old-fashioned, three-point play by James Bridges.

Pojoaque’s Marcos Vigil has his shot blocked by Santa Fe Indian School’s James Bridges. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Following several mad scrambles for the ball, it ended up in the hands of Trujillo. He drained a three-pointer to tie the score.

Pojoaque took the lead after a free throw by Herrera. On the Elks next possession, Mario Santistevan scored off a nice inside assist from Roybal.

Pojoaque’s Diego Trujillo passes to teammate Mario Santistevan. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Two more free throws by Herrera gave Pojoaque a 53-48 head with less than a minute left to play.

The Elks looked like they could run out the clock when they got the ball back. An ill-advised shot by Herrera opened the door for Indian School and two free throws by Pecos cut the lead to 53-50. Pecos was back on the line moments later and sank two more free throws. On the Elks next possession, a steal and layup by Kurt Candelaria gave the Braves a 54-53 lead with 22.4 seconds left in overtime.

Pojoaque’s Diego Herrera goes in for a layup against Santa Fe Indian School. Photo courtesy of Marcos Herrera.

It was looking bleak for Pojoaque when they turned the ball over and then fouled Pecos with 17.4 seconds left. Pecos had hit his last six free throws,

“Momentum was completely on (Indian School’s) side,” Coach Vigil said. “I expected (Pecos) to make them and drew up a play to get three points.”

That all became meaningless when Pecos missed both free throws. Grabbing the rebound off his second miss, Pojoaque fired the ball down the court to an open Trujillo. He drove to the basket for a layup. Trujillo missed the shot, but drew a foul.

Pojoaque’s Isaac Roybal shoots a jumper against Santa Fe Indian School. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Trujillo went to the line with 12.6 seconds. He coolly sank both free throws to give Pojoaque a 55-54 lead. Trujillo then stole the ensuing inbounds pass and drew another foul. He delivered two more free throws that gave Pojoaque a 57-54 lead with 10.2 seconds left.

The ball ended up in Candelaria’s hands. It looked like he was going to pull up and shoot a long three-pointer to try and tie the game. Instead, he ended up dishing off to Tolaska HuntsAlong cutting to the basket. HuntsAlong sank the layup, but time ran out on the Braves and Pojoaque had hung o for a 57-56 victory.

It was an exhilarating moment for the Elks. The next night in the championship game, Bernalillo High School brought the Elks back down to earth with a dominating 74-46 victory. The Spartans look like one of the top teams in Class 4A. With 6-foot, 7-inch Solomon Fragua at post, Bernalillo has an outstanding inside/outside offense. Fragua kicks the ball to the outside, where a posse of three-point shooters get open looks at the basket for the Spartans. Bernalillo sank 11 three-pointers.

“That team (Bernalillo) we played tonight is a juggernaut, a title contender,” Coach Vigil said. “At times we held own and there were some things we can build on. We grew a ton in (The Indian School) game. We have a whole bunch of work left. I’m excited to get back to work Monday.”

The Elks take on Pecos High School Tuesday at Pojoaque. It should be a stiff challenge for the Elks. Pecos played Bernalillo down to the wire in the semifinals of the Ben Lujan tournament, losing by just three points 71-68. The Panthers pounded Indian School 87-62 for third place.