Call it a re-branding, a new style or a re-launch. In any case or moniker, the “new-look” Taos Tigers basketball team have begun their 2017-18 campaign in northern New Mexico, and it is truly refreshing.
Under new management, Taos has undergone a much-needed transformation with the hiring of local leader, Hernando Chavez – a type of facelift that has borne lots of points-per-game and nail-biting moments in just their first six games this season. It helps when your personnel includes ball handlers and shooters. Taos’ backcourt has just those ingredients in its three starting guard mix of Quinn Moon, Abdul Khweis and Justin Madrid – who have produced the bulk of Taos’ points thus far.
Right out of the gate
For rookie coach Chavez, the first game of the season (and of his career) was a curious matchup with an unfamiliar foe. Taos was paired with the class 5A Alamogordo Tigers and was tested right out of the gate in the opening round of the Henry Sanchez Invitational basketball tournament in Bernalillo – the first known meeting of the two Tiger teams. Taos passed the test, though, and handed Chavez his first career victory 61-53 Nov. 24 to advance to the championship game against the Bernalillo Spartans the following evening.
The Tigers stumbled a bit in their second game against the host team – losing to an experienced Spartan squad who controlled the tempo of the game and out-muscled Taos 79-64 Nov. 25.
The Taos Tigers returned to their winning ways with an exciting 71-66 victory over the Santa Fe Indian School at home but fell four days later to the Moriarty Pintos, 60-56. A second straight home loss to the class 5A Capital Jaguars Dec. 5 put Taos below the .500 mark for the first time of the season. The final score: Capital 72, Taos 55.
The latest outing could have been described as a dog fight – a loud, sloppy game that could have gone either way for either team. Fortunately, Taos was able to come away with a key win - beating the Mora Rangers 89-80 on their home court Dec. 9.
Despite a plethora of turnovers, lead-changes and key players fouling out, Taos managed to hang on to the lead at the end to even out their overall record at 3-3. The 89 total points garnered in regulation was the largest scoring output by a Taos Tiger team since a 93-87 win over the Bernalillo Spartans on the road Jan. 29, 2009. The most points scored by the Tigers since the turn of the century was a 108-33 victory over the now-defunct Española Military Academy at home Dec. 1, 2006.
The Taos Tigers played their second consecutive game against a class 2A foe – taking on the Escalante Lobos at home Dec 14.
From the outset, the Tigers grabbed a commanding lead and held on for the 79-63 victory. The Tigers now sit at 4-3 overall and are in the midst of a two-game win streak. The thread will be tested, though, when the Tigers welcome the undefeated Bernalillo Spartans to Otero Gymnasium Dec. 21. After a convincing defeat in the Henry Sanchez Invitational basketballl tournament in Bernalillo Nov. 25, the Tigers will be aiming to avenge the prior loss and hand the Spartans their first loss of the season. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m.