After a string of close losses, Farmington High finally had a tight game go its way.
The Scorpions defeated Piedra Vista 67-61 in the third-place game of the Marv Sanders Invitational on Saturday at Farmington High.
FHS (2-5) entered the fourth quarter trailing the Panthers 49-38, but Josh Miller-Castillo scored 17 of his game-high 21 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Scorpion comeback.
“We calmed down, and I tried to keep the team under control,” said Miller-Castillo, who shot 6-11 from the field and 8-9 at the free-throw line. “We finally learned our lessons from the previous games. We were able to knock shots down that we needed to knock down and executed the offense.”
Late-game experience finally paid off for FHS, said Scorps’ head coach Paul Corley.
“We finished that game,” Corley said. “It was the same story as a lot of the other games we’ve played but, tonight, we did what we needed to at the end.”
With a five-point lead and only two minutes remaining, PV appeared as if it would weather the Scorps’ comeback attempt, but the Panther bench was hit with a technical foul after arguing for a foul call as FHS guard Matt Huffhines and PV guard Ty Jaquez battled for a loose ball.
Huffhines hit the two technical free throws, and Miller-Castillo made a layup on the ensuing possession to cut the Panther lead to a point with a 1:40 to play.
The technical foul call came a crucial time in the game, but PV head coach Adam Huff said there were many mistakes in the final quarter that cost the Panthers the victory.
“It was the whole quarter,” Huff said. “That was obviously a huge turning point, but there were so many other things that happened in the last two minutes that we could have changed.”
Corley thought the call gave his team an important momentum boost.
“Anytime you have a swing like that, it makes a big difference,” Corley said. “That’s why I tell my kids we have to keep our emotions in check.”
PV (3-6) turned the ball over on the next possession, and Farmington guard Brad Betz tied the game at 58 after hitting one of two shots from the free-throw line.
Huffhines got to the line after another Panther turnover and hit both attempts to give Farmington its first lead since 2-0.
The FHS senior then stole the ball, raced down the floor for a layup and drew a foul. Huffhines hit the free throw to push the Scorps’ lead to 63-58 with 53 seconds left.
“At halftime, we talked about getting one stop at a time,” said Huffhines, who finished with 21 points for the Scorps. “Then we were able to hit some free throws at the end that we didn’t hit in the previous games. Our coach told us to keep attacking the basket and not settle for jump shots.”
Jaquez cut the Farmington lead to 63-61 with a 3-point play of his own at the 36-second mark, but that was PV’s last basket as the Scorps hit their free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Jaquez led PV with 17 points, but struggled from the field, hitting just 5-15 and 1-7 from 3-point range.
The Panthers used a 7-0 run to open up a 16-12 first quarter lead.
PV exploded in the second with the first 10 points as the Panther lead ballooned to 26-12.
Farmington struggled to cut into the Panther advantage, and trailed 35-24 at the half.
Neither team could gain momentum in the third with PV keeping its 11-point lead heading into the final quarter.
Farmington started to come back early in the fourth, keeping the Panther lead in single digits most of the quarter before completing the comeback in the final two minutes.
Corley thinks this win will springboard his team to more success this season.
“Our confidence level is up after that,” he said. “They’re ready to go Tuesday. The thing I love about them is they don’t quit, and they never got defeated by those close losses. This win was big, but it will be a war with PV this season and this is just one of the battles.”
Despite leading the Scorps for most of the game, Huff isn’t going to allow his team to take any moral victories from the effort.
“We were the better team, and we can’t take anything positive out of this,” he said. “If the kids don’t remind themselves about this, they shouldn’t be playing.”
Huffhines and Miller-Castillo were named to the all-tourney team for FHS. Jaquez and Satchel Baker received all-tourney honors for the Panthers.
Baker scored 12 points before fouling out with just over three minutes left. Troy Dixon added 11, all in the first half, in the loss.
FHS hit 25-31 from the free-throw line while PV went 14-20 from the charity stripe.
Farmington will be in action next against Durango, Colo., at home Tuesday.
PV will travel to Shiprock on Tuesday. The Panthers defeated the Chieftains 59-58 in the opening round of the tournament.
In the tournament title game, Montwood, Texas captured its eighth-straight Marv Sanders Invitational title, defeating Gallup 60-45.
Rams head coach Tony Harper credited the warm reception his team gets each season in Farmington as the reason his team keeps coming back.
“We like the competition and the hospitality that the town puts out for us,” Harper said. “We appreciate their effort and it’s a nice place to come to.”
Anthony Davis scored 17 points to lead Montwood to the title. Davis was named the tourney MVP.
Shiprock 67, Fabens, Texas 51
The Chieftains jumped on the Wildcats early and never let up as Shiprock won the fifth-place game of the Marv Sanders Invitational.
Junior Justin Begay scored 12 of his 16 points during a 14-2 Shiprock run to close the first quarter with an 18-8 lead.
Ball movement and a balanced Chieftain offense opened up the floor, Begay said.
“We just ride whoever has the hot hand,” he said. “Tonight, it was me, and my teammates did a good job of getting me the ball.”
Shiprock’s offense has multiple players who can score consistently, and Chieftain head coach Chester H. Atcitty Jr. said that balance is the key to their success.
“I have seven guys who can all go off,” Atcitty said. “Justin did a great job, but it’s really important they stay together as a team. We can’t put the emphasis on one player. We need each other.”
The Chieftains (6-2) pushed their lead to 34-20 at halftime.
Shiprock had one of its better defensive halves of the season, but Atcitty said he still sees a lot of room to improve.
“We got a little bit too relaxed,” Atcitty said. “Overall, we did a good job, though.”
Fabens cut the Shiprock lead into single-digits on a couple occasions in the second half, but never threatened to take the lead as the Chieftains finished to win their second game of the tournament.
Hiram Gleason matched Begay with 16 points on 8-13 from the field. Gleason was named to the all-tournament team for Shiprock after averaging 16.3 points per game during the event.
Shiprock’s next game will be on Tuesday against Piedra Vista.