Solid defense and a game-clinching free throw in the final seconds helped Moriarty High School’s boys basketball team fend off the visiting Albuquerque Academy Chargers last Friday, 36-35.

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Zach Trujillo leaping for a layup through a trio of Chargers. Photo by G. Demarest.

With the score tied 35-35 and 13.7 seconds remaining in the game, Moriarty senior Jake Flaming went to the foul line to shoot two free throws.

The first one thudded off the right side of the rim. “I wasn’t nervous at all but it just slipped and I was like, ‘Oh, crud, now I really gotta concentrate,’” Flaming said.

He nailed the second free throw, giving the Pintos a slim 1-point lead. Academy inbounded the ball and drove down court with one last chance to upend the home team.

But Moriarty’s defense forced the Chargers to miss three consecutive attempted shots before the final buzzer.

“It was crazy, it was intense, and exciting all in one,” said Moriarty sophomore Matt Soto. He chipped in 2 points.

“This win was really big,” Moriarty head coach Mike Trujillo said of the much-needed district victory. “To be honest, I didn’t think it was going to come down to the last shot.”

The Pintos had built a 10-point lead in the third quarter, but when three of their starters got into foul trouble and went to the bench, the Chargers used a 7-0 run to trim the deficit to 3 by the end of the frame.

Academy pulled within a point early in the fourth quarter and forged ahead 35-33 with just under 4 minutes left in the game.

Flaming knocked down a pair of free throws to tie the score at 35 with 3:23 to go. He scored a game-high 11 points.

During the game’s final minute the Pintos successfully ate up some time by passing the ball around before Vigil called a time out with 28 seconds to go.

“There at the end we talked about what we needed to do to execute,” Vigil said. “I was proud the boys were able to finish it. It’s exciting for our basketball community.”

The Pintos came out strong in the first quarter shooting a balmy 67 percent.

Academy kept the score close and was within 2 points before Cody Pisz nailed the Pintos’ only 3-point shot of the contest to put Moriarty up by 5 at the end of the first stanza.

“Zach [Trujillo] passed it to me and I was wide open so I took the shot,” Pisz said, adding, “Zach played a great game.”

Trujillo scored 10 points with five rebounds and five assists. Pisz finished with 5 points.

The win hoisted the Pintos into a second place regular-season finish in District 5-5A earning them the home court for tonight’s district-tournament clash with St. Pius X.