Good team defense denied No. 11 Los Lunas’ first chance at a go-ahead basket but, with just two seconds remaining in the game, the Tigers had another chance to win the game. Los Lunas’ first shot didn’t find the bottom of the net, but Mullins came crashing in and tipped the basketball in at the buzzer to give the Tigers a 67-65 win at Piedra Vista.
Mullins, who scored 14 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter, was mobbed on the floor by his celebrating teammates for the game-winning basket.
“It was a great feeling. I have never had that before, and it was a great way to win the game and get a big win,” Mullins said.
Trailing 65-64, the Panthers got a big defensive stop and Shanahan Wilson was fouled with 12 seconds remaining in the game.
Wilson went to the line and hit 1-of-2 free-throw attempts to tie the game at 65 before Mullins’ deciding shot.
Piedra Vista (9-9) head coach Adam Huff told his team at halftime little things such as allowing offensive rebounds could cost the team the game, and it did Tuesday night.
“It is the little things. Four or five of (Los Lunas’) first-half points were on offensive rebounds,” Huff said. “Little things like that allow them to win the game.
Piedra Vista led most of the game, taking a 51-44 lead into the fourth quarter.
But the Tigers (9-5) toughened up their defense in the final eight minutes, eventually taking a five-point lead halfway through the quarter.
PV fought back to tie it on Wilson’s free throw, but there was too much time left for Los Lunas to strike last.
“We didn’t respond in the fourth quarter when Los Lunas picked it up,” Huff said.
The Panthers had no problem scoring points the first three quarters thanks to big 3-point shots by Jacob Armijo and an all-around attack from Ty Jaquez.
Jaquez finished with a team-high 18 points in the loss for PV while Armijo and Troy Dixon each had 12. Wilson added another 11 points in the loss.
But PV was outscored 23-14 in the fourth quarter when it mattered most.
“In the first half, we weren’t playing together. We had guys playing as individuals on defense,” said Los Lunas head coach Travis Julian. “In the second half, we came together and played much better.”
Julian was happy with the way his team used its size inside to dominate the paint.
“PV doesn’t have a true big man. They have big kids, but they didn’t have a true big man,” Julian said. “Our guys inside were really able to go to work and get in the right positions.”
Huff was hoping his PV squad could go 2-0 this week against its District 6-4A opponents with another game at No. 8 Gallup scheduled for Saturday.
“When you play a game like this, it will do nothing but make you better. Los Lunas will battle for district with Gallup, and they are both tournament teams,” Huff said. “It would be big for us to win in Gallup. We wanted to go 2-0 this week, but 1-1 isn’t bad at all if it means you win in Gallup where it is tough to play.”
Tuesday night’s win was big for Los Lunas, and both Julian and Mullins were happy to earn the win on the road.
“We needed a road win to get going and get on a roll this time of year,” Mullins said.