Farmington boys basketball advances in district tournament on buzzer-beating win

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Needing a win to not only extend their season, but perhaps earn a spot in next month's state basketball tournament, Farmington High School's boys basketball team edged West Mesa 56-53 thanks to a buzzer-beating game winner by senior Cayden Yazzie.

Meantime, Kirtland Central's boys basketball team rolled to victory over Shiprock in their opening round game of the District 1-4A tournament.

Here's a look at all the Tuesday night prep basketball action.

Boys Basketball

FARMINGTON 56, West Mesa 53

There was a chance the season might have been over.

The 12th-ranked Farmington Scorpions boys basketball team came into their first round District 2-5A tournament game knowing they needed a big performance to have a shot at making it to the state tournament.

The big performance happened, literally in the final second as senior Cayden Yazzie sank a three-point shot as time ran out, lifting the Scorpions to a 56-53 win at home over West Mesa to advance to the next round of the district tournament.

Yazzie, playing in foul trouble for most of the second half, took a short pass from Trel Griego near the baseline and nailed the game-winner from the top of the key, eliminating West Mesa from the tournament and keeping the Scorpions hopes alive for a berth at next month's state tournament.

"For us, it's such a big win. It's been awhile since we've been in the running for anything," said head coach Larry-Don Chitty. "These steps that we're taking are just enormous."

The play was set up when Chitty called a timeout with seven seconds on the clock after a loose ball was recovered by Cody Vassar-Steen, who was on his back and looking for someone to pass the ball to while being hounded by Mustangs defenders. The time out call gave the Scorpions a chance to set up the game-winner.

Immediately after the timeout, Griego tried to go inside for a contested layup, which was knocked out of bounds by West Mesa with four seconds remaining. 

Having no time outs remaining, Yazzie delivered the inbounds pass to Griego, then whipped past Griego while setting up the dagger shot.

Farmington High School's Cayden Yazzie puts up a shot over West Mesa's Andres Brito in the first quarter of their District 2-5A playoff game, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022 at Scorpion Arena.

You can check out video of the game-winning shot on the team's Facebook page.

"I just wanted to find my shot," Yazzie said. "I knew it was going in right then and there."

Playing with three fouls for most of the second half, Yazzie knew he had to be more patient when the game got close.

"I knew I had to be more smart about when and when not to go for the ball," Yazzie said. "Just being more smart in the second half."

Yazzie and Vassar-Steen each led the Scorpions with 16 points on the night.

"So many plays got us there," Chitty said afterwards. "West Mesa fights so hard and they are so well-coached. Any win against them is huge."

The Scorpions, who opened the season with a 13-1 mark in non-district play, toiled in district competition with a 4-6 record. An early exit in the district tournament could have been costly for Farmington when it came to being seeded in the upcoming state championship tournament.

The win sets up a Wednesday night showdown on the road between the Scorpions and Eldorado, a team that eliminated Piedra Vista with a 69-32 win Tuesday night. The Golden Eagles have faced Farmington twice this season, with each team getting a win. Farmington topped Eldorado 71-63 in their most recent meeting Feb. 12 at the Scorpion Arena after losing on the road 65-56 on Jan. 22.

ELDORADO 69, Piedra Vista 32

The Eldorado High School boys basketball team cruised to an opening round win Tuesday night in the District 2-5A playoffs, beating Piedra Vista by a final of 69-32 at Eldorado High School.

The Golden Eagles will host Farmington Thursday night, while Piedra Vista' season comes to a close. 

The Panthers finish with a record of 7-20 and were winless in district competition this season.

KIRTLAND CENTRAL 91, Shiprock 57

The Kirtland Central boys basketball team put together one of their strongest performances of the season, winning their opening round contest in the District 1-4A tournament at home over Shiprock by a final of 91-57.

The win sets up a second round showdown Thursday night when the Broncos will visit Gallup for the third time this season. 

The Broncos jumped on the Chieftains early, taking a 19-13 lead at the end of the first quarter before outscoring Shiprock 27-12 in the second quarter. Junior Andres Melendez led the Broncos charge with 10 of his 14 points coming in the second quarter.

Kirtland Central's Sequoia Santee reaches as Shiprock's Jaden Grey puts up a jump shot during their District 1-4A playoff game, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022 at Kirtland Central High School

Jarvis Mullahon, Jr. led Kirtland Central with 18 points on the night as all 13 players scored points during the game.

"We felt like we really wanted a chance to prove ourselves," said Kirtland head coach Brian Dowdy. "We've been emphasizing getting better and that was our goal and we did that."

The Broncos (13-14 overall, 4-7 district) maintained their pressure on Shiprock in the second half, outscoring the Chieftains 45-32. 

Kirtland Central will be looking for their first win against top-seeded Gallup this season. In their two prior meetings, the regular season district champion Bengals knocked off the Broncos by double-digit margins. Ranked 23rd in Class 4A in the most recent MaxPreps poll, the Broncos will likely need a win in order to have a chance at advancing into the state tournament.

"The challenge will be if we can back up this game with another four quarters," Dowdy said. "Talent isn't the issue. Being consistent and confident is."

Shiprock finishes the season with an overall record of 6-20, and 2-8 in district competition.

BLOOMFIELD 86, Aztec 61

The Bloomfield High School boys basketball team got big performances Tuesday night from senior Aaron Watchman and sophomore Andrew Florez as the Bobcats rolled to an 86-61 win over Aztec in the opening round of the District 1-A tournament.

Watchman led the Bobcats with 23 points, while Florez scored 18 points as four Bloomfield players scored in double figures on the night.

The win advances Bloomfield into a second round matchup Thursday night on the road at Miyamura, who finished second in the district standings behind Gallup.

The Bobcats have won six of their last seven games, improving their record this season to 15-12.

Bloomfield head basketball coach Randy Crockett talks to his team during a timeout in a District 1-4A game last season against Aztec.

"Now we just need to sustain it for two more games," said Bloomfield head coach Randy Crockett. 

The Bobcats are ranked 17th in the state in the most recent Class 4A MaxPreps poll. A good showing this week in the tournament could enhance their chances of advancing into the state tournament. The seeding selection process for the state tournament will be held Sunday evening.

"We're playing our best basketball of the season right now," Crockett said. 

Girls Basketball

SANDIA 36, Piedra Vista 31

The Sandia High School girls basketball team earned their way into the second round of the District 2-5A playoffs after a 36-31 win at home Tuesday night over Piedra Vista.

The Lady Panthers trailed throughout their opening night match, while neither team was running away with the contest. The Lady Matadors took a 15-12 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Piedra Vista, currently ranked 13th in Class 5A according to the most recent MaxPreps poll, will now wait until Sunday to find out if they'll advance to the state tournament.

With an overall record of 16-11 this season, the Lady Panthers have played much of their campaign dealing with a number of injuries, particularly with their leading scorer Lanae Billy, who was out for more than three weeks.

Sandia, with a record of 16-9 on the season, will move in the district tournament and a home game Wednesday night against West Mesa.

Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at SBortstein@Gannett.com, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680.