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Moriarty’s Matt Soto fighting his way into the paint past East Mountain’s Frank Novak during last Friday’s game. Photo by G. Demarest.

East Mountain’s boys basketball team arrived at Moriarty’s gym full of fire last Friday but it was the Pintos who went home with a 58-36 victory in the first-ever meeting between the two teams.

“It was a good game for us against a good opponent,” said Moriarty head coach Mike Trujillo. “They’re well-coached and they came out pretty strong.”

East Mountain had a brief early lead and kept the score within a point or two through the first 5 to 6 minutes.

But by the end of the first quarter, Matt Soto sank a pair of layups in a 27-second span to cap an 11-2 run and give the home team a 10-point advantage. “I was having a blast,” said Soto, a 6-foot-4 sophomore forward who finished with 8 points. “I think we were all really excited because we’re friends with a lot of these guys.”

East Mountain trimmed the deficit slightly in the second stanza when Aidan Aragon’s 3-point basket from the top of the arc pulled the T’Wolves within 5 points with just over 2 minutes left in the first half. “I was hitting my shots in warmups so when I got the ball I was ready to shoot,” said Aragon, who led East Mountain with 19.

“That Aragon kid can shoot the heck out of the ball,” Trujillo noted. “He pretty much kept them in the game.”

But once Moriarty’s 6-foot-6 senior post Jake Flaming got going, it was all over for the visitors.

Flaming, whose only points in the first quarter came on a pair of free throws, hit a layup and a trio of free throws in the final minute before halftime to put the Pintos back up by 10 at the break. “I think I came out a little bit timid,” Flaming said of his first-quarter efforts.

The Timberwolves were missing two key starters—Kyle Roark and Darryl Pennington—but East Mountain head coach Joe Vigil said his team can’t use that as an excuse.

“Injuries are part of the game, you have to play through that adversity,” Vigil said. “But I thought we played a decent first half.”

Moriarty broke the game open in the second half.

Flaming’s single-handed 6-0 run midway through the third quarter included a steal of a T’Wolves pass that he took the length of the court and slammed into the hoop for a crowd-pleasing dunk.

“After halftime I just took a deep breath, and was like, all right, it’s just a game, and I just started playing,” said Flaming, who scored a game-high 25 points. “But my teammates should really get the credit for getting me the ball where I needed it.”

“We weren’t deep on the bench so maybe fatigue got us a little,” said Vigil. “But I give them a lot of credit, they’re a good ballclub.”

The Pintos, who snapped a three-game losing streak with a 44-36 win over Miyamura the night before beating East Mountain, are now riding their first winning streak in more than a month.

“It feels good,” Flaming said. “It’s kind of a momentum builder. It builds a little confidence in each other.”

Moriarty hosted Portales while East Mountain hosted Estancia Tuesday night after The Independent went to print. The Pintos travel to Taos tonight.

Ger Demarest
Ger Demarest

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.