Then they showed they could stop.
For the better part of three quarters, the Elks ran with Laguna-Acoma in the championship of the Ben Luján Tournament in Ben Luján Gymnasium on Saturday. But when Pojoaque was armed with a 58-44 lead, it slowed the pace down and made the Hawks play its game.
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They couldn’t, and the Elks walked their way to a 77-69 win and the tournament title. The Hawks (8-1) lost for the first time in the regular season since Feb. 19, 2010 — a span of 32 games.
The way Pojoaque finished the game indicated a level of maturity the team displayed.
“We had the lead, so we knew they were going to attack us,” Pojoaque head coach Joey Trujillo said. “So we told the kids to be patient, be strong with the ball because they were going to attack us and try to get steals.”
The Elks (7-2) were patient, and the reward was 15 trips to the free-throw line, where they hit 12 of them to ice the win. Laguna made a spirited run to get within 65-59 on Ryan Arkil’s layup with 3 minutes, 23 seconds left, but Pojoaque went on a 7-2 spurt highlight by breakaway layups from Derrick Velasquez and Curtis Cordova to make it 72-61 with 2:02 remaining.
The Elks already had experienced the worst the Hawks could do to them in the first half. Laguna hit five of their first eight shots and jumped out to an 18-10 lead on Josh Paytiamo’s 3-pointer with 4 seconds left in the opening quarter. Pojoaque’s reply came in the form of Brandon Bustos, who drained four 3s in the second quarter.
The last two tied the score at 25, then gave the Elks a 28-25 edge they never lost.
“I came out hot, and they decided to feed me,” said Bustos, who finished with a team-high 18 points. “I came out aggressive and started draining.”
While Laguna prided itself on pressing and running for 32 minutes, the Elks matched that attitude and then some. While the Hawks rotated nine players, Pojoaque countered with 12. It was apparent by the second half which was the fresher team.
The first 11 points of the third quarter belonged to Pojoaque, and when John Ainsworth nailed a 3 at the 5:52 mark, the lead was 46-30.
“Our second unit came in and picked up the defensive intensity,” Trujillo said. “Then, when we came in with another wave of kids, they kept up the defensive intensity.”
Laguna could not keep up and eventually stopped pressing for a good part of the second half.
“We were running too hard for them,” Bustos said. “You could tell they wanted to go into a 2-3 [zone], and we just kept going at them.”
The other Elks hit double figures scoring, as Cordova finished with 14 points. Matthew Herrera and Velasquez both added 10. Anthony Carpio had 31 to lead Laguna-Acoma.
Taos 53, Socorro 27
The Tigers (8-3) took command in the second quarter by outscoring the Warriors 10-3 to take a 27-14 halftime lead and cruise to the win.
Shane Willis got Taos off on the right foot by scoring 14 of his 16 points in the first half, while Lorenzo Rael took care of things in the second half with seven of his 10 points.
Ethan Smith led Socorro with nine points.
Peñasco 54, Raton 45
The Panthers (4-3) nabbed fifth place on the strength of a 25-6 run in the fourth quarter that erased a 39-29 Tigers lead. Peñasco had a host of heroes in the comeback, but two key players were Matias Romero (seven points in the fourth) and Alvin Lujan (eight). Josh Gurule led the way with 13 points, while Rashaan Craig had 25 for Raton, but only two in the final quarter.
Mesa Vista 49, Santa Fe Indian School 41
The Trojans (2-8) overcame a 13-6 deficit and a decisive 13-8 run in the fourth quarter sealed their second win of the season. Emiliano Martinez had nine of his team-high 20 points for Mesa Vista in the second quarter as the Trojans took a 22-21 lead at the half. Matthew Richardson added 11.
Justin Aquino had 21 points — including all eight of the Braves’ points in the fourth — to take game scoring honors.