FARMINGTON — The Farmington High boys basketball team will have the chance to defend its District 1-4A championship.
The Scorpions earned the opportunity for the title after sneaking past Aztec 44-40 in the tournament semifinal on Wednesday night at Scorpion Gym.
"I thought we played good in spurts and then had moments where we didn't," FHS head coach Paul Corley said. "It's tough to beat a team three times, and they were coming off that big PV win, so they brought in a lot of emotion."
FHS (15-12) led 10 points heading into the fourth quarter, but Aztec's defense kept the Tigers hanging for the final eight minutes.
Aztec (9-18) forced six turnovers and held FHS to 2-of-7 shooting in the final quarter to remain within striking distance of the Scorps, eventually cutting the deficit to 42-40 on a Juwan Charley 3-pointer with just under a minute left.
"You have to give them credit. They hit some big shots," Corley said. "They really pushed us."
The Tigers had three chances in the final minute to tie or take the lead, but couldn't get a shot to drop.
"We got out further on their shooters and went to man. That seemed to help us," Corley said.
FHS guard Alex Whiteley sealed the victory with a pair of free throws in the final seconds of the game.
FHS came out strong in the first quarter, opening a 15-4 lead, but never really expanded on it as the Tigers kept the deficit between seven and 12 points for most of the second and third quarters.
Max Piñon led FHS with 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field, while Jared Tschetter chipped in 10 more in the victory.
"Our defense held for us," Piñon said. "We just had to be there and be strong."
Ethan Tso scored a team-high 11 points in the loss for Aztec.
FHS will continue its season on Friday at Kirtland Central in the district tournament final.
"We have to stay humble. They're No. 1 for a reason, but we're excited to be in the district championship game," Corley said. "At the beginning of the year, I really had my doubts, but I'm so proud of these kids. They're coachable and humble. Now they get the reward of a huge game on Friday night."
Aztec will lose four seniors off its roster after this season — Alvin Harvey, Troy Choman, Dylan Stinson and Ryneal Lewis-Adams.
"Our four seniors — Alvin, Troy, Dylan and Ryneal — were our 300," Aztec head coach Tony DiNallo said in a written statement after the game. "They never quit, never took a step back. Our seven returning varsity players are ready to accept the charge. They will remember and honor what our 300 started and play with a vengeance next season."Joshua Perry can be reached at email@example.com; 505-564-4577. Follow him on Twitter @jperrysuu.