The Taos Tigers boys came away from their first district contest with a 74-65 victory over the Pojoaque Elks Saturday (Jan. 26).
The Tigers got ahead early with two 3-pointers from Justin Madrid. The Elks returned with 6 of their own, tying it up with 3:28 to go in the first period. Pojoaque head coach Thomas Vigil shouted to his team, "We have to value the basketball!" And it seemed that they did. In the first period, they won the overwhelming majority of contests under the Taos basket, coming away with almost every rebound.
Two more baskets from the Elks made 10 unanswered points and a 10-6 lead for Pojoaque. Three points from Derek Chacon, 2 from Abdul Khweis and 2 from Noah Armijo off of a rebound closed the quarter 13-10 in favor of the Tigers.
The Tigers gathered as much as a 17-12 lead in the second quarter, but with 4:34 left the Elks tied it up at 17. Already the frequency with which players were splayed out on the floor under the basket was conspicuous - and the trend continued throughout the game. One team or the other would drive to the basket and players from one or both teams would end up on their backs, staring at the ceiling lights.
One of these scuffles took a Pojoaque starter out of the game with an ankle injury.
With about 3:20 left in the first half, the Tigers broke the game open. In the span of 54 exciting seconds, the score went from 19-17 Tigers to 27-22 Tigers. The injury seemed to disrupt the flow of the Pojoaque game and halftime saw the Tigers ahead by 10 points, 34-24.
Seated next to the scorekeepers was Cruz Chavez, father of head coach Nando Chavez, Taos High School class of 1969 - the second class to graduate from the then-new high school. When asked if he played basketball, the elder Chavez laughed and said no, but he did play football. "And in football I played left out!"
Self-depreciating jokes and all, Mr. Chavez II, also the father of C-squad coach Cruz Chavez III, demonstrated his support for his family and the Tiger athletes enthusiastically.
The third quarter gave him more to be enthusiastic about. A couple of minutes in, Taos was ahead 37-28.
The Elks comported themselves with dignity and respect, immediately helping their teammates from the floor after the countless many collisions that put them there and huddling briefly before and after free throws. Players addressed the referees as "Mr. Official," telling them, "Thank you, sir," after receiving answers to their questions.
A beautiful jump shot by Abdul Khweis made it 43-30 Taos with 3:41 left in the third. Tigers starters Husam Khweis, Derreck Chacon and Abdul Khweis then sat on the bench. Pojoaque, however, was not content to lose. In the last minute and a half of the third period, the Elks cut the Taos lead from 15 points to 9, including a 2-point shot just before the buzzer.
When the fourth quarter opened, there was still a game to be played. Taos kept the gap around 9 points for a couple of minutes, including 30 seconds of passing the ball with no intention of shooting.
Pojoaque fought hard and got the Tigers starters back on the court, but the Elks couldn't significantly narrow the point gap. As long as they kept themselves in it, it seemed a game that Taos would win.
In spite of the Tigers dominance in the second half, Husam Khweis fouled out with only 2:29 left in the game, sent to the bench with five personals for the half. Chacon took himself out of the game, also with five personals, with only 1:20 left in the game and a 72-58 lead. From the sideline, it appeared that Chacon may have undercut the Pojoaque player already in the air, sending him hard to his elbows and back. Coach Nando Chavez explained that both Husam Khweis and Chacon "played a hard game defensively." On Chacon he added, "I see him box out and guys jump up after he's boxed out. They are putting themselves in danger."
Between repeated time-outs from both sides and near constant clock-stopping for fouls, that minute and 20 seconds took quite a while. The Elks managed to narrow the gap again, but not to close it. The final score was 74-65. Overall, Chavez is "pleased with the effort. It's important that you take care of the home court" during the district games, he said.
After this section goes to press Jan. 29, the Tigers face their "first district road test of the season" against Moriarty. "We gotta make sure we're mentally in it or it could be a long night," Chavez said.
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