You know it is a big game when Piedra Vista opens up its upper-level seating.
A tough loss in Aztec last week made Thursday night's rivalry game against Farmington almost a must win for Piedra Vista.
Both teams were fueled by passionate fan bases once again, but it was the home crowd at the Jerry A. Conner Fieldhouse that helped spark Piedra Vista guard Jacob Armijo to one of his best games of the season.
Armijo scored 13 of his game-high 26 points in the second quarter to give the Panthers a sizable lead and another 11 in the fourth quarter to put the game away as Piedra Vista earned a 73-49 victory.
"I just didn't want to lose at all. Farmington is still up in district, and we are trying to fight our way into second, or maybe even a tiebreaker game for first," Armijo said. "It was great to have a home crowd like we had tonight. They give us confidence."
A win Thursday night would have given Farmington the regular season District 1-4A title, but the Scorpions (13-12, 4-1 District 1-4A) will need a home win Saturday against Aztec (10-14, 1-4) to take the title.
The win for the Panthers keeps their hope alive for a tiebreaker game. If PV can win at Kirtland Central (10-14, 2-3) Saturday and Aztec can beat Farmington, PV and Farmington will play again next Tuesday night in a tiebreaker to determine the No. 1 seed for the district tournament.
"Give PV credit, the way the seedings are right now and everything, they played with a sense of urgency, and we didn't match that," said Farmington head coach Paul Corley. "They shot lights out and did a good job."
PV went 27-for-51 shooting Thursday night to just 18-of-54 for Farmington.
Farmington only had one player score in double figures as Matt Huffhines scored 17 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
"We talked about it all week long. If we can make stops, we are good enough to score," said PV head coach Adam Huff. "Our problem is we let people score on us and then we panic. It all starts on the defensive end for us.
"Huffhines has scored 20 points in almost every game this year. Holding him under 20 is a good job. We switched things up on him and put bigger kids on him and tried to get physical, and then we did a good job closing out on everyone else."
The game was just 9-5 in favor of PV after a very good, defensive first quarter, but Armijo's outburst in the second helped give the Panthers a 32-20 lead at halftime.
Satchel Baker helped PV extend its lead quickly in the beginning of the third quarter, scoring six points in under two minutes while getting steals and finishing at the basket.
"I was just being aggressive and trying to score," said Baker, who finished with 13 points. "The first four minutes of the third quarter are the biggest, and I was trying to help us build our lead."
The Scorpions didn't go down without a fight, cutting PV's lead to just four points toward the end of the third quarter.
But a big 3-point basket by Ty Jaquez, who also scored 13 points for PV, gave the Panthers a 47-37 lead at the end of the third quarter, and PV never looked back.
"We cut it to four at the end of the third but then we miss a layup and let them hit a 3 before the end of the quarter," Corley said. "It was a five-point swing, and that was huge."
PV was well-rounded Thursday night with its big men and guards all contributing.
"Our guys have gotten better. At the beginning of the year, we were very guard heavy," Huff said. "Now we have games with (Baker) and Isaiah Valdez and Shanahan (Wilson) scoring. As long as we get something from one of those guys, we will be hard to beat because our guards are so good."
The Panthers know they still have business to take care of, and they will need some help from Aztec if they want another shot at Farmington before the district tournament.
"We have to stay level and take care of Kirtland. We can't have any peaks or valleys. We just have to get through it and win," Baker said.
With the win over Farmington, Huff firmly believes his team will have a spot in the state tournament regardless of the outcomes the rest of the year in district.
"Even if we lose to Kirtland, it is a tiebreaker situation for second, and they could still take us over Kirtland. I think we are in. That win gives us a chance to still get a regular season district championship," he said.
Huff is hoping for that scenario, and hopes it a tiebreaker wouldn't be played on a neutral court.
"It is two Farmington teams. Why would we go to Kirtland or Aztec? It is possible Corley and I could say let's have it at one of our places and flip a coin," Huff said. "I don't think he would want to go to Kirtland because I would call a few favors in and get a few fans to go against Farmington in that one, and nobody should have to drive to Aztec to watch two Farmington teams play. We might as well keep it in Farmington and have another great crowd like we just did."
Corley isn't even considering district tiebreakers because he knows his team can wrap up the No. 1 seed Saturday at home against the Tigers.
"We have set ourselves up to take care of it Saturday night. Our boys understand that. We just need to refocus, have a good practice Friday and get ready for Aztec," Corley said. "We can't let this game determine our great season we have had so far. We can still be district champs and earn the No. 1 seed. We can't look ahead to anything else."
Kirtland 65, Aztec 58
The Broncos kept their hopes for second place in District 1-4A alive with a win over the Tigers Thursday night.
Christian Mackey dominated with 25 points and 18 rebounds for Kirtland Central in the win.
"He was just Christian being Christian, fighting off double teams," said Kirtland Central head coach John Zecca. "His 18 rebounds were big for us. If he wasn't the force on the boards, then we probably don't win the game."
The Broncos (10-14, 2-3 District 1-4A) took a 14-point lead into halftime but Wyatt Schlueter scored 19 of his 25 points in the second half as the Tigers (10-14, 1-4) attempted to come back.
"I figured they'd make a run," Zecca said. "The Schlueter kid was a huge spark. We tried to contain him, and I thought we did a good job in the first half, but he just went off in the second half."
Aztec head coach Jody Christman thought his team's slow start was the key to the loss.
"We didn't open the game with enough intensity and didn't play hard enough. They handed it to us on the boards," Christman said. "We got to work and get better. We've played everybody in the district tough."
Jerrod Noble scored 11 for the Broncos in the win, and Bud Willie added 10 more.
Kirtland will face Piedra Vista at home Saturday with second place on the line, while Aztec travels to Farmington to close out the regular season.
"Being second is such a huge advantage," Zecca said. "Getting home court plus the extra day of rest is just huge. Hopefully we can come out on top."
Sports reporter Joshua Perry contributed to this report.