MORA — James Porter’s layup with eight seconds left in regulation gave the host Mora Rangers the last laugh Tuesday night as they staged a minor upset of West Las Vegas 66-62 at Montoya Gym.
Mora improved to 2-1, its lone loss having come in another nailbiter at defending Class 3A champion Pojoaque. Tuesday’s game marked West Las Vegas’ debut under new head coach David “Morgan” Montaño.
The game ended much like it began — a furious offensive barrage by both sides.
West had battled back from a six-point deficit, and with 12 seconds left, Dons senior post Adrian Rivera attacked the lane, drawing a foul. Rivera, a veteran of last season’s memorable run to the Class 3A state championship game, sank both free throws to nudge West ahead 62-61.
Instead of playing it conservative, Mora wasted little time in answering. Joshua Olivas lobbed the ball down the floor. Porter grabbed it and slashed inside for the go-ahead score.
The Dons turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds play and had to foul. The Rangers hit both free throws to make it a two-possession game. Another WLV turnover and a late technical foul put Derek Pino on the line, and Pino put the exclamation point on the Mora victory.
The outcome overshadowed a stellar offensive night for Rivera, who scored 21 of his game-high 34 points in the first half to lead the Dons to a 35-32 halftime advantage. Big things are expected from Rivera, the only returning member of the “Three Amigos,” the triumvirate that gave West major offensive firepower the last several seasons. He and senior guard Derek Gold are key returners from last season’s state runner-up lineup.
Coach Montaño commended his group’s effort but noted that he saw plenty of areas that need improvement, including taking better care of the basketball and making defensive stops at the right times.
Olivas and Pino led Mora with 17 points apiece. Porter scored 13, and Paul Pacheco scored six of his 11 in the fourth quarter. Henrique Chavez added six and Derick Gallegos two.
Sophomore Fabian Varela and Gold scored eight each for WLV. Ambrose Castellano had five, Anthony Madrid three, Tomas Benavidez two and John Martinez two.
A back-and-forth offensive show started Tuesday’s game. Beginning with Porter’s three-point basket, Mora took control and ended the first period with a 25-18 lead. West recovered quickly, outscoring the home team 17-7 to go up 35-32 at the break. The Dons clung to a 47-46 edge heading into the final quarter.
Next for Montaño and his Dons is a matchup with the host Tigers in the Taos Invitational at 7:45 Thursday evening. Montaño said he expects a similar test from Taos, a team that emphasizes effort, particularly on the defensive end.
Manuel Romero and his Rangers host Peñasco on Friday, Dec. 12.