East Mountain Timberwolves secure two district Ws but need to stay ‘fundamentally sound’

Jose Perea jumping toward the net against Laguna-Acoma.

East Mountain High School’s boys basketball team secured two consecutive district victories at home, beating Albuquerque’s Cottonwood Classical Prep on Feb. 1, 66-53, followed by a Feb. 6 win over the Laguna-Acoma Hawks.

But East Mountain’s head coach Joe Vigil knows his team can’t rest on its laurels.

“Right now, [Class] 3A is up for grabs,” Vigil said.

In East Mountain’s 65-50 victory over Laguna-Acoma, the Timberwolves (11-9) grabbed an early 9-1 lead and stretched it to 16-5 near the end of the opening stanza.

But the Hawks (11-10) used the long ball to battle back, splashing five 3-point baskets in the first half to cut East Mountain’s lead to 29-28 at halftime.

“They’re a real strong team, they can shoot the 3 very well,” Vigil said.

East Mountain’s Aaron Talamante plowing past a Cottonwood defender on his way to the basket.

The T’Wolves made some adjustments in the second half to try and stifle Laguna’s 3-point shooters, and Vigil said his team “did a better job of that in the second half.”

Laguna stayed within striking distance for half of the third quarter, but East Mountain used a 6-0 run near the end of the frame and a 7-0 run at the start of the fourth to jump ahead 51-40.

Aaron Talamante’s 3-point basket capped a 12-0 spurt with 2 minutes left in the game to boost the T’Wolves’ lead to 63-43.

“We knew that Laguna lives and dies by the 3, so we made sure that we got on their shooters and that’s what changed the game,” East Mountain’s Jose Perea said.

The T’Wolves had four players score double digits against Laguna, with Perea leading the pack at 17 points; Talamante tallied 15 points, Parker Sweat scored 14, and Will Merkey chipped in 11.

In the win over Cottonwood Classical Prep, the teams traded leads a few times in the first half before East Mountain heated up with an 8-0 run at the end of the second quarter to push its lead to 28-19 at halftime.

Arian Rogers driving toward the paint against Cottonwood.

The T’Wolves continued the surge at the start of the second half, extending it to an eventual 20-0 run and a 40-19 lead midway through the third.

The quartet of Talamante, Sweat, Perea, and Merkey led East Mountain in scoring with 18, 14, 13, and 10 points, respectively.

Vigil said Cottonwood Classical is “a scrappy team,” but he also noted that his team didn’t play as well as it could have.

“Even in that 20-0 run it just didn’t feel right,” Vigil said.

Vigil said his team turned the ball over and got out-rebounded by Cottonwood.

“This game is very fundamental and sometimes our fundamentals slip away from us,” Vigil said. “We’ve got to stay fundamentally sound the rest of the season.”

East Mountain’s next contest is Feb. 8 at Cuba High School.