After sputtering through the first half of Monday afternoon’s game against the visiting Hot Springs Tigers, East Mountain High School’s boys basketball team shifted into gear to post a 54-35 victory.
It was the Timberwolves’ third win in four days and fell on a rare holiday afternoon—a result of rescheduling last month’s snowed-out game with the Tigers.
The T’Wolves are riding their first three-game winning streak of the season after beating Class 3A Native American Community Academy 51-41 on the road last Saturday and routing Class 2A Mountainair by 28 points at home the day before.
“We’re still a work in progress,” said East Mountain’s first-year head coach Joe Vigil. “But we’re getting there.”
Missing starter Kyle Roark to an injury, the T’Wolves had trouble handling Hot Springs’ fast-paced style through the first quarter and trailed the Tigers early in the second.
When Darryl Pennington, another starter, got hurt fighting for a rebound and had to leave the game, the T’Wolves found themselves in a close battle at halftime.
“We were a step slow that first half,” Vigil said.
So instead of sitting in the locker room during the intermission Vigil had his boys out on the court doing drills. “Sometimes we just need that wake-up call,” the coach said.
The tactic worked.
East Mountain, led by senior Aidan Aragon, held the Tigers to one field goal in the third quarter while finishing the stanza on a 13-0 run. “We let it get away from us in the first half, then we started playing as a team,” said Aragon, who scored a game-high 21 points.
As in Monday’s game, the T’Wolves started a little slow in Friday’s matchup with the Mountainair Mustangs—the first meeting in three years between the two schools’ boys squads.
Chris Lovato’s 3-pointer and subsequent layup produced a 5-0 run to put the Mustangs ahead early in the first quarter.
But near the end of the first, Isiah Padilla’s back-to-back layups and Kyle Roark’s 3-pointer rounded out a 12-4 surge to give the T’Wolves a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“Early on we were kind of lackadaisical,” Vigil said. “But once our defensive intensity picked up we got going with our offense.”
“Got going” is an understatement.
The T’Wolves erupted for 20 points in the second quarter, building an 18-point advantage on 50 percent shooting by halftime.
Aidan Aragon scored a game-high 15 points for East Mountain.
The Mustangs settled for just two field goals and a free throw in the second quarter and went 6-for-23 from the floor during the first half. “To tell you the truth, I’m a little speechless,” said Mountainair head coach Azan Chavez. “We just didn’t execute whatsoever.”
Andrew McKinley and Amador Brazil paced the Mustangs with 10 apiece.
“We’re just going to have to do some work to gear up for district,” Chavez said. The Mustangs play their first district game Thursday at Jemez Valley.
East Mountain goes to Moriarty on Friday to take on the Pintos, a game Vigil said will be a big test for the T’Wolves.
Ger has been writing and shooting photos of high school sports for The Independent for 15 years. His dedication to youth athletics goes beyond sports reporting. He is past president of East Mountain Little League and works as a baseball umpire. He lives in Edgewood with his family.