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There are no more unbeatens in Class 5A boys basketball, thanks to Los Lunas

Jan. 2—LOS LUNAS — A 7, Jalin Holland said.

How was he feeling, on a scale of 1-10, he was asked after the Los Lunas Tigers toppled the state's new No. 1-ranked boys basketball team in Class 5A, Farmington.

A 7, he said.

Well, 70% Jalin Holland was quite sufficient.

The 6-foot-4 junior guard was visibly battling through a flu bug, but powered through, scoring a game-best 27 points, and the seventh-ranked Tigers (7-4) handed visiting Farmington its first loss of the season, 49-31 on Tuesday night.

The Scorpions (12-1), fresh off a victory over Cleveland in the championship game of the Hobbs Holiday Tournament on Saturday, had been the last unbeaten 5A boys team in New Mexico.

"This is a huge win," a smiling Holland said. "Coming off all our losses, this is a big win for us."

Los Lunas fell by three to Organ Mountain in the championship game of a tournament in Las Cruces last weekend. But this was the second signature win for the Tigers of the season, the other being an 84-81 road win at Atrisco Heritage last month.

Farmington was the new No. 1 in the 5A coaches' poll which was released in the evening on Tuesday. The Scorpions traveled 1,000 round-trip miles to Hobbs last week. The Scorpions had a quick turnaround for their trip south to Los Lunas on Tuesday. This was going to be a tough assignment even without all that time on the bus in the last few days.

"I think (all the travel was a factor), but not as much as you think," Farmington coach Larry Don Chitty. "It was more their defense. They had a plan and they were active and big and long and strong."

And also, the Tigers have Holland, the state's best player.

A flu bug hit the Holland household last weekend, and Holland was clearly not physically right in the first half, looking fatigued even in the game's first couple of minutes. But he soldiered through, scoring 10 first-half points, including a long 3-pointer from the top of the key in the final 3 seconds of the first half to give Los Lunas a 19-18 lead at halftime.

And Holland certainly gained strength in the second half, getting to the rack and finishing with frequent success, with his big frame and scoring talents too much for the Scorpions to handle.

Of course, there was a reason for this, and it was teammate Logan Tafoya, a senior guard who buried what were probably the two biggest shots of the game.

Los Lunas was leading 23-22 in the early moments of the third quarter, when Tafoya got a clean look in the corner near his own bench and nailed a 3-pointer.

On the next trip, he got an equally clean look from the opposite corner, and hit that 3-pointer, too, for a 29-22 lead.

"I just felt coming out of halftime, we needed something to get us rolling the rest of the game, and I did it myself," Tafoya said.

Those two shots were part of a 10-0 run that Farmington never recovered from, and everyone on both sides agreed that Tafoya's marksmanship turned the tide.

"It got them going," Chitty said. "One, it made us change our defense a little. And now Jalin is really going inside, because we can't help as much. Those were huge (shots by Tafoya), and not just because of the points."

Said Los Lunas coach Travis Julian: "It gave us the room that we needed."

And going forward, Holland had more space to get to the rim in the final two quarters. "My bread and butter," he said. "Definitely was a lot more open in the second half."

Los Lunas' defense on Farmington's star, Cody Vasser-Steen, was solid all night. He finished with 15 points but the Tigers had multiple defenders on him for all 32 minutes.

Plus, Chitty said, Farmington, which he described as a mediocre-shooting team anyway, labored to find its range from distance outside of two early 3s.

"We've been able to knock down some shots," he said, "but it didn't look like it tonight. ... We've won games, which is great, and we'll take 12-0 anytime, but it's not like we've been out there dominating. We knew this was gonna be a tough one."

Julian was quick to affirm what Holland said about the importance of this result.

"We needed a win like this," Julian said. "We've had a pretty brutal schedule, and any win we can get against a top-five team is gonna be important for us."

The 31 points for Farmington was a season low; its previous low was 47 against Maryvale High out of Phoenix on Dec. 16.