The Tigers went into their final boys basketball game before the Ben Luján Tournament — against Monte Vista — with a 6-1 record and confidence that brimmed on arrogance. Upon taking the court for their first-round matchup against Santa Fe Indian School, Taos was much more grounded — and focused.
The combination was more than the Braves could handle as the Tigers used a 27-4 run in the second quarter to spur a 60-35 win. Taos plays Laguna-Acoma, a team that has not lost in the regular season since Feb. 19, 2010, in a semifinal at 5:30 p.m. The Hawks beat Raton 83-34 in the opening game of the boys session.
The other semifinal pits Pojoaque Valley, 64-34 winners over Peñasco, against Socorro, which beat Mesa Vista 64-41.
But back to the Tigers.
Taos (7-2) came into the season believing it was among a group of teams in Class AAA with thoughts of being a player in the class this season.
Early season wins over District 2AAA foe Las Vegas Robertson and Española Valley bolsters those thoughts.
“I don’t know if success makes things look a little easier and sugar-coats things,” said Daniel Trujillo, Tigers head coach. “I think the coaching staff fell for that and the kids fell for that.”
Trujillo said that because Monte Vista brought the Tigers back to earth on Saturday with its win.
It revealed to the Tigers they weren’t as good as they thought they were.
Oh, and they struggle to score against a zone.
“In man, we can attack easier, we can get to the basket very easily than we can in zone,” said Shane Willis, Tigers junior post.
Monday and Tuesday brought two-a-day practices and a new approach.
“We got to get tough on each and every possession, offensively and defensively,” Trujillo said. “In basketball, you got to be tough, especially on the road. There are times in games, you can’t settled for soft shots, or long shots. You got to get what we call tough-guy shots and get to the paint.”
The Tigers achieved tough-guy status in the second quarter. The Braves (4-8) committed nine turnovers in the quarter, and hit just 2 of 9 shots from the field.
Meanwhile, Taos made seven of their 11 baskets inside of 10 feet and went 11-for-14 over the 8-minute period to take a 40-18 lead into the locker room.
It was a far cry from the first quarter for SFIS, which tied Taos at 11 on a pair of free throws by Robert Calabaza with 43.5 seconds left.
“We play pretty good for a quarter or two, and possibly even three,” said Zack Cole, Braves head coach. “This game, you take away the second quarter, and that was what we really lost by. That’s been our approach with the boys, you got to play for 32 minutes.”
Taos is learning that, too. The thing is, the Tigers have bigger aspirations in their sights.
In other action
Pojoaque Valley 64, Peñasco 34
The Elks (5-2) demonstrated their depth by starting their second group.
While it gave the Panthers a chance to grab a 4-0 lead midway through the opening quarter, Pojoaque went on a decisive 20-4 run to take a 20-8 lead that was never threatened.
A trio of Elks reached double-figures, as Brandon Bustos led the way with 15 points — nine of them in the second half.
Edwin Fierro and Chris Martinez each added 10. Darren Rodriguez paced Peñasco with 13 points, and Josh Gurule added 12.
Socorro 64, Mesa Vista 48
Michael Padilla was a thorn in the Trojans’ side, as he dropped 26 points to lead the Warriors into the semifinals.
Twelve of his points came during a decisive 24-10 scoring run in the third quarter that upped a 32-16 margin at the half to 56-26 entering the fourth quarter.
Emiliano Martinez led Mesa Vista (1-7) with 10 points.
Laguna-Acoma 83, Raton 34
The Hawks (7-0) used their vaunted full-court press to perfection as they rolled to their 31st straight regular-season win.
Anthony Carpio scored 18 of his game-high 23 points in the first half as the Hawks took a 47-16 lead.
He led a quintet of scorers that inlcuded C.J. Salvador (13 points), Ryan Arkie (11), Augustus Cuch (11) and Josh Paytiampo (10).