No. 12 Farmington trailed No. 5 Albuquerque Academy the entire night in the opening round of the 4A boys' basketball state tournament in Albuquerque. The Chargers jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the opening minute and never looked back, eventually rolling to a 53-43 victory.
"Academy came out with a lot more intensity, and we didn't match it," said Farmington High head coach Paul Corley. "Their size gave us problems. Our kids played with so much heart and battled all the way through, but not making shots and a few little things came back to haunt us."
Farmington (15-13) trimmed Academy's lead to 12-10 after one quarter, but the Chargers (16-10) outscored the Scorpions 18-7 in the second quarter to open up a big lead.
Only two Scorpions were able to get into any kind of rhythm offensively. Matt Huffhines and Josh Miller-Castillo each scored 17 points to combine for 34 of Farmington's 43 points.
"Those guys led us all year, and they stepped up again tonight," Corley said. "It was just a tough night. We didn't shoot real well, but you will have nights like that."
Tommy Lindgren, a 6-foot-3 senior forward, was a force all night for the Chargers, scoring a game-high 25 points while collecting double-digit rebounds.
Farmington big man Ethan Graff picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter, largely taking him out of the game as he had to work around picking up more fouls.
"When (Graff) picked up his second, it hurt our size quite a bit because he is our post guy who defends big guys on other teams. Foul trouble gave Academy an advantage," Corley said. "(Lindgren) really hurt us on the offensive rebounds, and he converted a lot of them into points."
Farmington shot just six free throws all game, hitting four of them.
"We attacked, but we went in there real tentative, afraid of their size," Corley said. "We just didn't get to the line. I thought the officials did a great job. I have no complaints about that. We just didn't have the intensity to match Academy."
After losing a solid group of seniors from the 2012 team and star Adonis Saltes when he moved to Albuquerque, few expected Farmington to reach the Round of 16, let alone win a District 1-4A title.
"When I took over the program in June, a lot of people — you have your doubters. In the preseason, people picked us last in district. We used it as motivation and as a challenge to our boys," Corley said. "We grew together. We were a family and played that way all year. We proved the doubters wrong, and that is why they were district champs."
Corley called the night bittersweet. Losing a talented group of seniors was the hardest part.
"I was privileged to coach (Huffhines) for one year. He was a silent leader. He didn't say much, but he let his play show out on the court with his points and his defense. He was a great leader that will be very tough to replace," Corley said. "All the seniors, Miller-Castillo, Damon Shorty, Ethan Gradd, Frankie Gutierrez, they were a great group who played really well.
"That group of seniors set the bar high. They can walk into the Scorpion Gym the rest of their lives and see the '13 on the district championship banner and they can be proud of it. Nobody can take it away from them."
Corley was appreciative of the fan support the team received all season.
"I have to thank our fans. They were here tonight and supported us all season. As coaches, we really appreciate that," he said. "it inspired our kids and makes them play that much harder when they see a group of fans like they had all year.
"I also have to give a big thanks to my assistant, Danny Seacrest. He has been a great asset to us all year and he helped me tremendously. He was a great positive influence on the boys."
John Livingston may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.