Navajo Prep faces stern challenge on road at St. Michael's

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Prep boys basketball team will face their biggest test of the season Wednesday at 6 p.m. on the road at Perez-Shelley Gymnasium, where the fifth-seeded Eagles will face off with St. Michael's in the quarterfinal round of the Class 3A state tournament. 

The fact that this entire season has been one test after another for Navajo Prep might have them prepared for the showdown.

After having their season interrupted for nearly three weeks in early January due to pandemic-related closures, the Eagles then turned around and played a dozen games in less than three weeks. Winning 11 of those games, all against District 1-3A competition, likely ensured Navajo Prep would find themselves in the state tournament.

"We learned a lot about who we were as a team during these last few weeks," said coach Matt Melvin. "When we were shut down, it was tough to practice, and once we got back, it was about how quick we could get our timing back."

Navajo Prep's Collin Bia works his way around West Las Vegas' Roy Pacheco during the third quarter of their Class 3A state tournament first round game at the Eagles Nest on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

The Eagles wound up finishing atop the standings with a record of 17-7, but lost the district tournament championship game at home to Crownpoint by a final of 32-30, a game that frustrated both Eagles players and coaches.

More:Postgame chat with Navajo Prep head basketball coach Matt Melvin

"It's all we talked about after the game was that our leaders needed to play their best games," Melvin said. "That's how we can make a run."

The Eagles responded with a resounding win at the Eagles Nest on Saturday, winning their state tournament opener against West Las Vegas by a final of 56-46. Senior Dontrelle Denetso scored a game-high 26 points on the night while sophomore Jude Thomas stepped up in a big way with 14 points in the second half to preserve the win.

The Eagles will need similar efforts Wednesday night at St. Michael's, coming into the game after dismantling Tohatchi by a final of 76-33 in their first round game. 

The 4th-seeded Horsemen are 11-time state champions, the fourth most of any boys basketball team in the state. Coached by David Rodriguez, St. Michael's is led by junior Adam Montoya, as well as senior Devin Flores.

The winner of the contest will advance to the state semifinals to face either top-seeded Socorro or eighth-seeded Crownpoint.

For more information on the Class 3A state boys basketball tournament, check out the brackets and schedules page on the MaxPreps website.

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