District tournament finals have big impact on state tournament

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times
Gallup High School's Joaquin Ortega looks for an opening around Durango's Tyler Harms during their first game of the Marv Sanders Invitational Tournament, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021 in the Scorpion Arena at Farmington High School.

FARMINGTON — The finals are set for district tournaments in high school basketball, and for several teams, a win in district tournament championship games will ensure them a berth in the state tournament.

Miyamura and Gallup High School boys basketball teams are on a collision course for the District 1-4A tournament finals, while Kirtland Central and Bloomfield will await to hear if their seasons have come an end when state tournament selections are announced on Sunday night.

Here's a recap of all the Thursday night prep basketball action.

Girls Basketball

CROWNPOINT 24, Navajo Prep 23

The Crownpoint High School girls basketball team pulled off an upset win Thursday night, knocking off Navajo Prep by a final score of 24-23 in front of a large crowd at the Chieftain Pit at Shiprock High School.

The win eliminates the Lady Eagles from the District 1-3A tournament and leaves the fate of the two-time defending state champions this postseason up to the seeding committee. That panel will determine where to place Navajo Prep in the state tournament, which gets underway on Friday, March 4.

Both Navajo Prep and Crownpoint were deliberate in their defensive approach to the semfinal game, neither team's offense able to break each other's zone while also missing out on several chances from the free throw line.

Navajo Prep's Tru Billie (23) dribbles around Crownpoint's Alicia Harrison (23) near the baseline in the second quarter of the District 1-3A semifinal game inside the Chieftain Pit at Shiprock High School.

Crownpoint, winners of three straight and improving their record this season to 20-7, will travel to district regular season champion Tohatchi for a chance to earn an automatic bid into the state tournament.

Seedings and brackets will be released for both the boys and girls state basketball tournaments on Sunday night. Check back to our website on Monday morning for more information and schedules for the state tournament.

Navajo Prep, ranked fourth in Class 3A by the most recent MaxPreps poll released on Wednesday, will likely find themselves on the road for both the first round and quarterfinals of the state tournament when tournament brackets are announced.

Boys Basketball

MIYAMURA 58, Bloomfield 55

The Miyamura High School boys basketball team slipped past a stubborn Bloomfield squad Thursday night by a final of 58-55 to advance to Saturday night's District 1-4A tournament finals and a fourth clash this season with crosstown rival Gallup.

Seeded second in the district tournament behind regular season district champion Gallup, the Patriots managed to withstand a big Bobcat rally after they fell behind 33-19 at halftime.

"We really struggled shooting in the first half," said Bobcats head coach Randy Crockett. "But they played hard all the way to the end and I'm very proud of all of them."

The Bobcats rally in the fourth quarter was led by Aaron Watchman and Jeremiah Sandoval, who scored 17 and 13 points respectively in the game. After trailing by as much as 14 points heading into the final quarter, Bloomfield narrowed the gap to three points in the final minute.

Bloomfield's Andrew Florez added 10 points on the night, while Sam Slivers scored nine points. 

The Bobcats loss puts the future of the season in doubt heading into the weekend. Seedings for the upcoming state tournament will be announced Sunday night by the New Mexico Activities Association. Bloomfield, with a record of 15-13 this season and ranked 17th by MaxPreps in the most recent Class 4A poll released on Wednesday

"We played one of the toughest schedules we've ever had and ended up with a winning record," Crockett said. 

Miyamura has two wins over Gallup this season, the first coming during the Gallup Invitational Tournament on Jan. 8. The teams split their two district games, with Gallup winning their most recent matchup earlier this month by a final of 73-52 at Gallup High School.

GALLUP 76, Kirtland Central 58

The Gallup High School boys basketball team jumped out to a commanding early lead, then held off a fourth quarter rally on their way to a 76-58 win Thursday night at Gallup High School in the semifinals of the District 1-4A tournament.

The win sets up a Saturday night showdown at Gallup High School between the Bengals and Miyamura Patriots for the district tournament championship.

Gallup was led by four players in double figures, including leading scorers junior Isaiah Tom and freshman Kristian Touchine, who each scored 18 points on the night.

Gallup boys basketball coach Joshua Dunlap during a game against Durango, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021

Senior Joaquin Ortega had 14 points, nine of those points coming in the second quarter while senior Khohanon Atazhoon had 11 points, including a pair of three-pointers in the first quarter which put the Broncos in a very tough position.

The Broncos trailed 21-8 after the first quarter, thanks to some timely shooting from the Bengals and an inability by several Bronco starters to make outside shots. The Broncos didn't get on the board for more than six minutes of the first period. 

Both teams played more efficient basketball in the second quarter, but Kirtland Central failed to make a dent in the halftime score, trailing 42-27.

"All I've ever asked from this team is to compete and never give up," said Kirtland Central coach Brian Dowdy. "We could have given up very easily after that disastrous start, but we fought all the way."

The Broncos (12-15 overall) nearly evened the contest, getting on an extended run that started late in the third period and carried over into the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.

Kirtland Central closed the gap to within two points early in the frame, thanks to sophomore Devin Ramone, who scored eight of his team-high 10 points in the second half, and sophomore Noah Dineyazhe, who drained a pair of three-point shots in the third quarter.

Gallup responded midway through the fourth quarter with junior point guard Nathaniel Yazzie, who scored eight points, adding a spark to the Bengals offense and preserving the win.

Head coach Joshua Dunlap earned his 100th career coaching win on Thursday night while Ortega added to his impressive scoring figures, surpassing 1200 points in his career.

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