The Taos Tigers turned a nail-biter into a 53-50 victory over the Valencia Jaguars in the first round of the 4A state basketball tournament Saturday (March 9). The dramatic game ended with a 3-pointer from Derreck Chacon in the final 19 seconds of the game. The Tigers were scheduled to face Los Lunas, the number one seed in the tournament, at The Pit on Wednesday (March 13) at 11:30 a.m., after this section went to press.

The two sections of Taos bleachers were full Saturday as soon as the doors opened at 4 p.m. for the 5 p.m. game, and the noise and enthusiasm of the Taos Tigers fans were a notable factor in the game. "You have this place looking like a Taos gym," one onlooker from Valencia noted.

It was an intense and exciting game during which the Tigers trailed for all of the second and third quarters and most of the fourth. Still, they did what needed to be done when it counted, which in this case was the final 20 seconds of the game.

A back-and-forth first quarter became a 6-point Valencia lead with two Jaguar 3-pointers in the last two minutes, and the quarter closed 17-11, Valencia. The Jaguars' main weapons were Jake Mattox and his 3-point shot, which Taos had to work hard to rein in.

Taos reestablished their game in the second period and were within 2 points halfway through, but the Jaguars ran away with the last couple minutes of the quarter and the teams went into the locker room 27-19, Jaguars.

The Tigers relaxed after their time in the locker room and scored 18 in the third period to Valencia's 16.

"Is it always so loud at a Taos game?" one Valencia regular asked. Well, yes, but it didn't really get loud until the fourth.

The Taos fans were there when the Tigers needed them.

With a wildly cheering fan section, Taos held the Jaguars to 7 and raked up 13 for themselves, with points on the board from Quinn Moon, Justin Madrid, Abdul Khweis and Chacon in the final three minutes, bringing the final score to 53-50, Tigers.

"Valencia is a really good squad," said Tigers head coach Nando Chavez. "There's no doubt about it - that Jake Maddox is a really special player, but he's not the only one. That 35, Garrett Wade, he got at us a little bit. Credit to them - they're well coached." After a jittery first half, the Tigers came out of the locker room and were able to shake off the nerves and bring home the win.

The Tigers had to fight hard after Moon's injury earlier in the season. So many players stepped up that they now have a deeper, better team - and Moon. They're going to go out there on Wednesday and do "their absolute best," said coach Chavez.

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