A 3 -point basket by Matt Huffhines right before the end of the first half set the tone for the rest of Thursday night’s rivalry game at Farmington High.
Huffhines gave the Scorpions a 30-27 lead at halftime with the shot, and Farmington controlled the entire third quarter to build a 44-31 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Fueled by a raucous student section that traveled to the game, Piedra Vista mounted a furious comeback in the fourth quarter, but the Scorpions hit enough free throws to ice the game and collect a 61-56 victory.
“I am really proud of the guys. In this district, you have to defend home court because it is a small district. We played really well, and we had our own great fan support tonight,” said FHS head coach Paul Corley. “We handled the pressure of the rivalry and all the noise really well.”
Huffhines scored a game-high 23 points, but no shot was bigger than the 3-point bucket he hit before halftime.
After hitting the shot right in front of the PV student section, Huffhines turned around and motioned to the PV crowd to shush.
“They were jawing at me,” Huffhines said. “A lot of those guys are good friends of mine, but I don’t know. It just felt good to take the lead at half and go into the second half with that lead.”
Farmington (11-11 overall, 2-0 District 1-4A) blew it open in the third quarter, outscoring PV 14-4 as the Panthers (11-11, 1-1) shot just 2-for-14 in the quarter.
“The third quarter was big. We had good looks that we will normally knock down half of,” said PV head coach Adam Huff. “It didn’t happen tonight. You can see how well we can shoot by what we did in the fourth by attacking and finishing. Sometimes you just have quarters like that, and it is tough if you don’t play lights out defense.”
Ethan Graf was a force inside the paint for Farmington, altering several PV shots from the paint.
“Farmington is physical. I think we backed off a little bit taking it to the hole,” Huff said. “Their fouls were good ones on our guys when they weren’t shooting. They didn’t do anything special, they just backed off a bit when they noticed we weren’t shooting the ball well. It is hard to attack when you aren’t shooting well outside, and they can pack the paint. Then you have to try to go under a bunch of trees to try to finish at the basket.”
Farmington’s goal was to limit PV’s open looks from 3-point land.
“PV has some great shooters. A low percentage shot is the jump shot, and PV struggled to hit that shot. We were giving them that,” Corley said.
Corley is thrilled with the way his team’s man defense has come around in recent games.
“It has been our real focus. We have gotten so much better on it,” Corley said. “The kids have bought into what we are trying to do, and it is showing the last four or five games.”
Graf also scored 16 points in the win for Farmington, surprising the Panthers by hitting two 3-point baskets in the process.
“I was amped up tonight. PV is a good rivalry game. We had to be first to every ball and play as hard as we could,” Graf said.
Farmington was money from the charity stripe down the stretch, hitting 11-of-14 shots from the line in the fourth quarter.
“We are getting stronger at the line. It is always the best when you are on top at the end of a game and the other team is fouling you, and you make your shots. That is what we did,” Graf said.
Huffhines played excellent man defense against PV’s Ty Jaquez, who was held to 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting.
As a team, PV shot just 34 percent at 17-for-50 from the field.
Jacob Armijo led the Panthers with 19 points.
Both teams were happy to have excellent fan support at the game, and Huffhines knows the Scorp fans will travel to the PV game Feb. 21 just as the Panther fans traveled to FHS on Thursday.
“We have the best fans in the district, and they support us every game,” he said. “We are very grateful for that.”
After the loss, Huff said it wasn’t time for PV to hit the panic button.
“It is still early. The next two games will be huge for us. If we can take care of business, then we have FHS back at our place,” Huff said. “There is a long way to go and, of course, it comes down to the district tournament. We have three or four weeks to go, and I think we have a good enough resumé to get into the state tournament, even if we finish second. We have to come out and take care of Kirtland on Saturday, because we don’t want to fall to third place. No chance we make it to state as a third-place team in this district.”