69th annual Gallup Boys Basketball Tournament

St. Pius takes title at Gallup tourney

By Sunnie Clahchischiligi
Special to the Times

GALLUP, January 17, 2013

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(Special to the Times – Donovan Quintero)

TOP: (Special to the Times – Donovan Quintero) Gallup's Lionel Kinsel (40) looks for an opening to pass the ball around an Albuquerque St. Pius X player Saturday night at the 69th Annual Gallup Boys Basketball Tournament championship game in Gallup. Gallup lost, 65-58.

T here was simply nothing the Gallup Bengals could do once the St. Pius Sartans got hot on the three-point line in the championship game of the 69th annual Gallup Boys Basketball Tournament.

The private Catholic school from Albuquerque defeated the Bengals, 65-58, for the tournament title on Jan. 12.

The Sartans (8-3) came out strong scoring most of their first-quarter points in the paint to earn a 17-11 lead over the Bengals to finish out the opening quarter.

St. Pius head coach Damien Segura said their post was their strong suit but when Gallup was able to break that down they had to rely on their outside shooting that eventually got them the win.

"One of the advantages we thought we had coming into this tournament was our big people, our posts were in foul trouble and didn't play well…" Segura said. "And when they were making runs, we're able to keep some distance between us and Gallup, who's always dangerous."

Knowing St. Pius would depend on its outside shooting, Gallup stepped up the defense and held St. Pius to 9 points. On the offensive end the Bengals scored a dozen points to trail 26-23 going into the half.

Gallup head coach Domonic Romero said his team did what they could to stay in the game but in the end stopping St. Pius senior Micah Sanchez wasn't easy.

"After games like this you can't be disappointed with the effort," Romero said. "We kind of dared them to shoot threes, which (is) what we wanted because that's not what they want to do."

Gallup continued the fight to gain the lead but Sanchez sunk three more treys, 49-35.

Romero said free throws became an issue again as the Bengals hit 14-of-20 in the championship game. In the previous game, Gallup shot 16 for 34 from the charity line.

"We can always run better offense. I think at times we get a little stagnant and we stand around," he said. "Our free throws are going to be something we need to work on. I thought we were a free-throw shooting team until the last two games. We're missing too many free throws."

The Bengals had one more chance to steal the win as they narrowed the margin to a four-point game but time ran out giving way to St. Pius.

Segura said even though Gallup had another window of opportunity he knew his team would pull through.

"That comes with experience. These kids we put them in a tough situation when they were sophomores, they've been playing and starting since they were sophomores," he said "We don't get rattled, we get sloppy, but we don't get rattled…"

Sanchez led the Sartan's with 25 points.

Micah Sanchez, who was named the tournament's most valuable player, said he and the team played well but they have their eyes on something bigger.

"It's nice at the moment but our ultimate goal is to go to state," he said. "We kept our composure and that's what you need to do in a hostile environment like this, there's a lot of fan base here and it's great to play in an environment like this.

"We kept rebounding, that's what we stressed all season and that's what we need to keep doing, rebound the ball and keeping our possessions."

With district play in just a few weeks and the state tournament just around the corner both teams just might end up there.

Segura said his team is looking at a tough district playoff with some solid teams.

"We're the smallest team in our district. We've got to work on technique and getting positioned inside for our guys. We're in a tough district…" he said. "We're just trying to be there in the mix at the end."

As for Gallup, the Bengals are looking to be one of the dominating teams in their district especially with 6-feet-8 senior Andrew Klumpenhower in the mix.

Romero said he's looking forward to seeing how the district will handle Klumpenhower, who has proven to be a threat inside the paint.

"One big surprise we're going to get out of this, and I feel bad for our district, is that we got a big guy that can play now," Romero said. "…He can dominate and rebound and he's doing a great job so that's one big positive that we're taking into district hopefully our district's ready for a big guy that size."

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