In a do-or-die District 1-4A tournament first-round game Tuesday night at the Jerry A. Conner Fieldhouse, the Panthers were victorious at home against Aztec.
Armijo scored 23 points and Jaquez recorded a game-high 27 as Piedra Vista defeated the Tigers 88-64.
“It was win or go home,” Armijo said. “We have had four or five games this year with two players over 20 points in a game, and I think we are undefeated in all of those. There are a lot of us capable of doing it. If two of us do, nobody can beat us in this district.”
The Panthers (14-13) were solid on both ends of the floor, shooting over 57 percent on
In contrast, Aztec (10-16) shot just 23-of-63, good for just 36.5 percent.
“Our shot selection wasn’t real good,” said Aztec head coach Jody Christman. “I thought the thing that really hurt us was our defense, though. Their dribble penetration hurt us, and our defensive rotation wasn’t very sharp. This time of year, it has to be sharp.”
Piedra Vista’s press defense rattled the Tigers early, and Aztec rushed shots once they were able to break it.
“We came out and played our game and executed,” said PV head coach Adam Huff. “Coming in, the game plan wasn’t to press them. We were thinking about playing good man-to-man.
Once we got in the flow of the game, we got into it and started making layups, which allows you to press. It worked better tonight than the last time we played them.”
In the previous matchup between the two teams, the Tigers got the better of PV in a 78-66 game played in Aztec.
“There are a lot of losses this year that I think, ‘How did we lose to them?’ Aztec comes out and plays hard, especially at their place,” Huff said. “Unfortunately, they played much harder at their place than they did tonight, I think.”
Piedra Vista led by double digits most of the night after taking a 46-29 lead into halftime.
Armijo scored 14 points in the third quarter to put the game out of reach.
Isaiah Valdez was impressive for the Panthers, scoring 12 of his 14 points in the first half.
The big man also stepped out and hit 2-of-3 3-point attempts.
“Valdez has been hitting. The other night in Kirtland, he stepped into one and it looked really nice,” Huff said. “I asked him today if he was ready to go. He is a big energy guy for us. Ty and Jake are our leaders and they get the team going by their play, but Izzie is our energy guy. If he gets going, everyone does.”
Aztec was led by Conner Gaskins’ 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting.
Kyle Dodd and Jaime Lopez each added 13 points while Troy Choman scored 12 in the loss.
Aztec’s leading scorer for most of the season, Wyatt Schlueter, was held to just eight points on 3-of-19 shooting.
Tuesday’s loss brought an end to Aztec’s season.
“The season ends tough for every team but one,” Christman said. “Next year, it will be a different group. Yeah, we were competitive in the vast majority of games this year, but we have to find a way to get over the hump.”
The Panthers will hit the road Thursday night to face Kirtland Central in the district tournament semifinal.
The Broncos defeated Piedra Vista 66-52 just last Saturday night at Bronco Arena.
“We had an emotional let down after the Farmington game the Thursday night before,” Huff said. “It was a big hype game and we finally got Farmington. It will be tough, but hopefully our guys come in with a lot more fire and play well like they did tonight.”
For the Panthers, the biggest key seems to be staying focused when games turn against them at certain times.
An emotional team, Piedra Vista tends to get rattled when it starts slow or has a few fouls go against them.
“Every game we have got a technical this year, we have lost,” Jaquez said. “We have to stay focused and keep our mouths shut and keep playing, no matter what happens.”
The Panthers know just what Thursday night’s game could mean for the rest of the season.
“We are fired up for it. We are trying to get a good seed at state. You never know, they might only take two teams out of our district to go to state,” Armijo said. “It is definitely a big game.”