Wild card Lujan key to Dragons’ victory

March 2, 2019

Peter Lujan is both a coach’s dream and a coach’s nightmare.

That he’s also the coach’s son merely adds another layer to the equation.

Lujan, the senior wing for the Monte del Sol Dragons, is the Energizer Bunny that the rest of the team can feed off of, with the hustle and energy he brings to the hardwood.

Sometimes, though, Lujan doesn’t quite know how to channel the adrenaline rush he gets from a 3-point shot or sneaking in to steal the ball from an unsuspecting opponent, and it can lead to poor decisions, like unnecessary fouls and impetuous actions that can send him to the bench.

On Thursday night, he was mainly the best of what Monte del Sol needs, as he scored 15 points and came up with some big plays on both ends of the court as the Dragons beat Desert Academy/Santa Fe Waldorf 58-44 in the District 2-2A semifinal at the Institute of American Indian Art.

Monte del Sol, the second seed in the tournament, will get a fourth shot at beating No. 1 McCurdy at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Memorial Gymnasium.

To do that, it needs a Lujan who is fierce and fastidious, but not so flamboyant. Lujan admits that his emotions can override his head.

“I’m a player who lives to hit the big shot and lives to create the momentum in the game,” Lujan said. “I do pride myself on that and I try not to let my emotions get the best of me. At times, that has happened where we get a little momentum shift and I get overwhelmed. I know coach — and my dad — knows that I play best when I’m under control.”

Alfredo Lujan, the fifth-year Dragons head coach who is in his final season in that position, cannot deny that his son plays passionately.

“He very passionate about the game and he plays with a lot of emotion,” Lujan said. “But he also makes big buckets. He made some [Thursday] and he’s done it through the season. Sometimes, something happens and I go, ‘What, what was in your mind that you did that?’

“And it is hard because he’s my child and I’m supportive of him as a parent, but I’m the coach, too. So it’s a fine balancing act.”

The balance was better against the Wild Wolves, who were playing their third game in four days but also playing some of their best basketball at the right time. While senior wing Liam Otero had his usual standout game — 22 points on the strength of four 3-pointers — Desert Academy/Waldorf hit seven 3s overall.

They seem to come at key times, such as when Eno Little knocked down a triple from the top of the key with 23 seconds left to get the Wild Wolves within 32-25 at the half.

When Otero knocked down a deep 3 from the wing with a little more than a minute to go in the third, it capped a 9-4 run that brought the Wild Wolves within 45-34 entering the fourth.

Every time Desert Academy/Waldorf were on the verge of getting back into the game, it couldn’t come up with the necessary stop or bucket to sustain the momentum.

“Sustain was the key word,” Wild Wolves head coach Enrique Otero said, “I think one of the thing that was against us was fatigue. Not from this game, but from the accumulation of games.”

The Dragons (17-10) sensed that and answered the call every time. Chris Moncada opened the fourth quarter with a 3 from the wing — one of three he made as he finished with 13 points — to make it 48-34, then Peter Lujan ripped the ball away from Liam Otero in a battle of wills between two coaches’ sons. He went the other way for a layup and a 50-34 lead with 5:14 left. Forty-eight seconds later, Lujan drained a 3 from the wing for a 53-37 advantage.

When Will Smith hit a 16-footer and a free throw for Desert Academy/Waldorf (7-18) to trim the deficit to 53-40 with 3:09 to go, Peter Lujan outraced the rest of the weary Wild Wolves for a transition basket to make it 55-40.

“Focusing was just a big part,” Peter Lujan said. “I’ve taken these shot a million times, so why not one more?”

Why not?

When they go in, it’s like he’s living the dream.