With 15 seconds left in the game and the score tied at 50, Marvin Encinias sank a game-winning free throw to help the Moriarty boys basketball team squeak out a 51-50 victory Tuesday over the visiting Portales Rams.
The Pintos (16-7, 4-2) took a while to find their footing, trailing the Rams (12-10, 2-3) for most of the game and behind by as much as 11 points midway through the third quarter.
Portales was up 40-32 with 7 minutes remaining in the game when the Pintos caught some fourth-quarter fire.
Caleb Edwards drilled consecutive 3-pointers, and Encinias hit a layup where he drew a foul. He subsequently sank the plus-1 free throw to tie the score 41-41 with 4:44 left.
The Pintos built a 5-point cushion but Portales pulled within 2 with a minute to go.
Matthew Soto’s free throw made it 50-47 with :55 to play but the Rams nailed a 3-ball to knot the score at 50 with :45 left.
Thirty seconds later Encinias drew a foul in the paint.
His first shot clanged off the iron but an ear-splitting roar filled the gym when his second free throw swished through the net.
The Rams had one last chance but tossed up an air ball at the buzzer as the Pintos—and several fans—stormed the center of the court as if they’d just won the state championship.
“I don’t think we ever had any doubts,” Caleb Edwards said. “All of us knew this was our game.”
Edwards paced the Pintos with 17 points, Soto had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Encinias added 11.
“A lot of players stepped up and shared the wealth there in the last few minutes of the game and I think that was big for us,” Moriarty head coach Mike Trujillo said.
The win over Portales came three days after the Pintos lost at home to the Hope Christian Huskies, 68-56.
Edwards scored a game-high 27 points. His six 3-pointers matched a career best.
But despite staying close with the Huskies (15-7, 5-0) for three and a half quarters, the Pintos’ offense went cold in the back half of the fourth.
“I’m pleased with our performance, we played hard against an elite team—Hope’s a great team,” Trujillo said. “We were only down by 4, then all of a sudden we’re down 14 and that’ll take the air out fast.”
Edwards sank five of his six treys in the first half, helping the Pintos build a slim lead in the second quarter.
“That was probably our best game against Hope,” Edwards said.
“It was nice,” added Soto, who chipped in 10 points for the Pintos. “It’s been a while since any Moriarty team has had a lead on Hope.
The Pintos travel to Roswell Feb. 9 to play the New Mexico Military Institute.
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.