La Junta boys basketball falls to Lamar in series' 196th meeting

Ken Hamrick
LA Junta Tribune
La Junta High School's Trevor Johnston puts up a 3-point shot against Lamar in Monday's game at Tiger Gym. The Tigers lost 61-55 in the 196th meeting in the series.

The La Junta High School boys basketball team got off to a hot start in its rivalry game with Lamar on Monday at Tiger Gym.

The Tigers led 14-8 late in the first quarter. However, the rest of the game was all Lamar, which won 61-55.

"We had an opportunity to win," LJ coach Greg Lovato said. "We missed too many layups. If we make our layups, then we're where we needed to be. We just have to get better and make the easy ones."

What really stings for La Junta was that it took a loss to its long-time rival.

"That's the hardest part for these kids," Lovato said. "They worked hard and the last thing we want to do is lose to our rival. Especially when we had opportunities to win it at the end. It hurts, but it's part of life and we'll learn from it and try to get better."

Trent Johnston and Thomas Garcia once again led the Tigers with 17 and 16 points respectively. Johnston's younger brother, Trevor, almost joined them in the double figures club, falling short with nine points.

The La Junta/Lamar boys basketball rivalry is one of Colorado's oldest. The teams met for the 196th time on Monday. The teams played almost every year since 1909.

In the series, the Tigers have won 114 times, while Lamar now has 82 wins.

Lamar has now won two rivalry games in a row. Last season, it defeated the Tigers 66-57 in overtime at the Lamar Community Building.

The previous season was a rare occasion when the teams met three times. Lamar won in the La Junta Holiday Shootout, but the Tigers won in the regular season and in the Tri-Peaks District Tournament.

It may be an intense rivalry, but it is also a friendly one.

"We get along when the teams are together," Lovato said. "Everybody competes and at the end of the day, that's the biggest thing we need to do."

La Junta (3-9, 3-7 Tri-Peaks League) will play its final home game of the season on Wednesday, but it too won't be an easy one as the Tigers will host top-ranked St. Mary's. The first game begins at 4 p.m.

"We need to come out and play a perfect game," Lovato said. "We've yet to do it this year, so maybe we'll come out and play the game we need to and give us an opportunity. That's all we can ask for."

La Junta girls also lose to Lamar

The La Junta girls basketball team traveled to Lamar on Monday and they lost, 44-39 at the Lamar Community Building.

Statistics for the Tigers were unavailable.

La Junta (6-5, 5-4) will be in Colorado Springs on Wednesday to face 11th-ranked St. Mary's. The first game begins at 4 p.m.

Tribune-Democrat reporter Ken Hamrick can be reached by email atKHamrick1@gannett.com