Moriarty High’s boys basketball team didn’t play perfect basketball last Friday against the visiting New Mexico Military Institute Colts—particularly on defense—but key offensive spurts propelled the Pintos to a much-needed 49-39 victory.
“This win is huge,” Moriarty head coach Mike Trujillo said. “We didn’t play as hard as we could have defensively—we gave them too much easy stuff—so we talked about, let’s not let them control the tempo, and it paid off. We’re hoping it’s the start of some momentum.”
The Pintos need that momentum if they want to make it to the state tournament.
With the win over NMMI, Moriarty (12-13, 3-4 District 4-4A) snapped a two-game losing streak. The Pintos led for most of the matchup but the Colts (2-18, 0-7) persistently stayed within reach and even took a brief lead early in the second quarter.
But midway through the second stanza Tyler Murphy started and ended an 8-0 run with a pair of layups—his only field goals of the game. The second layup was a nifty one-handed, back-door basket after he had driven beyond the hoop and tossed the ball up from the baseline.
“I wasn’t even expecting it either,” Murphy said. “I guess I was just in the moment.”
The Colts had pulled within 3 points early in the second half before Zach Trujillo came in off the bench and sparked another surge by knocking down Moriarty’s first 3-point basket of the game. “I knew they were catching up so we needed a bucket and I was open,” Trujillo said. He chipped in 9 points.
The Pintos led by 10 points at the end of the third quarter but the Colts trimmed the margin to 5 points early in the fourth.
With just over 5 minutes remaining in the game, Matt Soto sank a put-back layup off an offensive rebound, Trujillo nailed another trey, and the Pintos’ lead was never less than 8 points the rest of the way. “At that point, I think we really wanted to stop letting them come back so we just tried to get as far ahead as we could,” Soto said.
Soto, Moriarty’s 6-foot-5 center, led the Pintos with 12 points. He grabbed six rebounds and had five blocks.
With 1:50 left, the Pintos pushed the lead back up to double digits when Trujillo snagged a rebound and fired a pass to Caleb Edwards who was all alone down court. Edwards sank the fast-break, wide-open layup.
“When we push the ball like that, that’s the kind of basketball we like to play,” coach Trujillo said.
Despite the Colts’ lopsided win-loss record, coach Trujillo acknowledged their athletic feistiness and ability to stay within striking distance. “They’re scary, I think they’re a lot better than that 2-18,” Trujillo said of the Colts’ record. “They’re very physical, they tried to get us to play sloppy, and we talked about let’s not let that happen, and it did for a little bit but not enough to hurt us.”
Moriarty finishes the regular season Friday at home against Ruidoso, followed by the district tournament next week. Trujillo said he feels confident that the Pintos are peaking at the most important time of the season.
“If we can beat Ruidoso and do OK in the district tournament we could maybe get a 10 or 11 seed,” Trujillo said, regarding a state berth. “I’m pleased right now with what we’re doing, we’re going into the postseason right where we want to be.