Mag boys record tourney win

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After the Magdalena boys basketball team beat Native American Community Academy on Dec. 8, they pushed their record to 3-0, but they were also staring at a 19-day stretch without a game.

Jonathan Miller/ El Defensor Chieftain: Tyler Julian goes up for two of his 14 points against Pine Hill on Thursday. The Steers won their opening-round game at the New Mexico American Indian Classic Basketball Tournament over the Warriors, 76-40.

Steers head coach Jory Mirabal would have preferred to play a game or two within that stretch to make sure his team didn’t get rusty, but there were no signs of that when Mag notched a 76-40 win over Pine Hill on Thursday night during the first round of the New Mexico American Indian Classic Basketball Tournament.

Just as they had in their first three contests in 2012, the Steers sprinted to an early lead and cruised to a relatively easy victory. Magdalena jumped out to an 18-0 first-quarter advantage against the Warriors and the outcome was never really in doubt.

“We did pretty good for not having a game for two weeks,” Steers starting point guard Tyler Julian said. “We just played a game of basketball.”

That might sound borderline simple in the grand scheme of things, but the fact remains this young Magdalena team has thus far displayed consistent amounts of maturity. The Steers lost 10 starters from last year’s team, including two post players who measured at least 6-foot-6, but the 2012-13 squad is undoubtedly already creating its own brand of basketball.

So far this season Mag has outscored its opponents 272 to 155, and it’s done so by using a blend of transition and half-court basketball.

Along with fellow sophomore Dre Montoya, Julian and the Steers have found an offensive rhythm that has so far given the opposition fits.

Julian is averaging just over 14 points per game so far while Montoya is contributing 20 points per contest.

The sophomore Julian is indeed taking on an integral role, but as good as the Steers are it may take some time to catch on. This team is accustomed to running, so an alternate style of offense might take a minute to catch on.

“I think he (Julian) has the ability to be one of the best point guards in the state, personally,” Mirabal said.

“What we’re going to have trouble with is getting people to buy into that role, and being happy with that,” Mirabal said.

And while it has become somewhat apparent both of those perimeter players can contribute points, the Steers might be even more comfortable knowing they have a true point player who can run the offense when need be.

Even so early on in the season Julian is morphing into a true No. 1 point guard.

It’s undeniable Julian is emerging as a team leader, but as the season wears on Magdalena will need to continually find creative ways to win. There’s no denying the Steers have tremendous amounts of speed and talent on the perimeter, but interior play might prove to be an Achilles’ heel. Mag has been putting up points, but they’ve also been giving up points in the paint.

“If we have a weakness, it’s our interior defense,” Mirabal said. “I think there is a certain number of points, just by our size, we’re going to give up. I think we’re working hard to keep that from happening. We’re going to live with a few weaknesses that we have because we have strengths in other areas.”