West Las Vegas’ boys’ basketball team stepped into the cellar of District 2-3A on Wednesday, and former cellar-dweller Raton escaped at the Dons’ expense.
The host Tigers surged late in the first half to blow open a close game, and they’d end up winning 65-48.
With identical 1-6 district records and a split of the regular-season series, WLV and Raton are technically tied for fifth place. But because the Tigers won by 19 compared to West’s 47-41 victory back on Jan. 23, they own the tiebreaker.
Derrick Valdez lit up his home scoreboard Wednesday, presenting matchup problems galore for the Dons and racking up 32 points.
Valdez made the last seven Raton points of the first quarter as the Tigers took a 13-11 edge.
Steven Gonzales reclaimed control for West with an old-fashioned three-point play. There would be 10 lead changes and a couple of ties, all in a competitive first half.
Jordan Lopez (13 points) had another solid game for the Dons. He made hoops on consecutive possessions to give West a 20-19 lead with roughly six minutes left in the second quarter.
But Valdez responded by slashing to the basket, hitting and drawing a foul, then sinking the ensuing free throw.
Following a defensive stop, the Tigers got the ball back, and Valdez did it again. That gave Raton a 25-20 advantage that they would not relinquish. The Tigers outscored their visitors 15-5 to end the half with a 34-25 cushion.
A relatively close third period ended with Raton holding a 51-39 lead.
Disaster struck early in the fourth, however. Officials hit Ambrosio Castellano with two technical fouls, resulting in his ejection — and in Valdez sinking three freebies for a 54-39 bulge.