Moriarty High School’s boys basketball team faced an uphill battle from start to finish in its Jan. 25 home matchup against the Española Valley Sundevils, but despite a plucky comeback effort, the Pintos came up short.
Trailing by as much as 14 points in the third quarter and still down by double-digits early in the fourth, the Pintos (6-11) mounted a comeback that cut the deficit to 4 points three separate times late in the game before falling 64-57.
Moriarty’s 20-point fourth quarter started with Cayden Dunn nailing a 3-pointer.
Midway through the fourth, Tyler Ortiz notched his first 3 of the season to pull the Pintos within 8 points.
“Yeah, that was exciting, I wasn’t expecting that,” Ortiz said. “That was the first one I made all year.”
Reyes Chavez’ backcourt steal and subsequent layup in transition cut the Sundevils’ lead to 57-53 with just over two minutes remaining in the game.
Julian Encinias sank a layup to make it 59-55 with 1:06 to go.
After the Sundevils pushed the score to 61-55, Encinias made another layup to cut it to 61-57 with just under a minute left.
Moriarty had a chance to pull within 1 point when Bobby Schmutz attempted a 3 with :20 left, but it didn’t fall.
“Hats off to these kids, they played hard,” Moriarty head coach Marcus Ortiz said. “I’m pleased, I mean, I’m hurt with the loss, but I’m pleased with the effort.”
The Pintos found themselves playing catch-up right out of the gate as the hot-shooting Sundevils (12-7) used three 3-pointers in the first two minutes to help build an early 11-0 lead.
Schmutz hit a 3-pointer near the end of the first quarter to cap a 12-4 Moriarty run that cut Española’s lead to 15-12—the closest the Pintos got the whole game—but the Sundevils answered with another 3 to push ahead 18-12 at the end of the quarter.
A 10-10 second quarter left the Pintos trailing 28-22 at halftime.
Schmutz sank his second 3 of the game in the third quarter, and Michael Pisz added one.
Tyler Ortiz scored a game-high 23 points. Encinias scored 12; Chavez added 10.
“I thought we played good, that was the best defense we played all year,” Tyler Ortiz said. “The intensity was great, we were flying everywhere, trying to get loose balls and stuff, I thought we did great, we just didn’t come out with it.”
“Tyler really stepped his game up tonight, that was one of the best games I’ve seen him play,” coach Ortiz said, adding, “I think these guys played a heck of a game tonight, we were right there—a couple of adjustments here and there and hopefully we can come up with a victory next time.”
The Pintos played at Taos (14-5) Jan. 28 and host Pojoaque Valley (6-14) Jan. 31.
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.