San Juan County saw its moments of championship glory in season cut short due to COVID-19

Matt Hollinshead
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — New Mexico sports came to a grinding halt in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but some San Juan County squads managed to experience championship glory right before everything stopped.

It’s time to look back at the triumphant moments from the first couple months of 2020:

Navajo Prep girls win first state basketball title since 2009

Prep had championship-or-bust expectations going in.

Prep returned its core personnel, including Hailey Martin, Aiona Johnson, Laila Charley and Holly Walker. Additionally, Tai Tai Woods transferred to Prep going into the season and proved to be that final piece the Lady Eagles needed for a championship push — given Woods’ previous state playoff experiences with Shiprock and Piedra Vista.

Prep’s offense was potent, averaging 66.6 points a game. Martin and Johnson created mismatches attacking the paint with their slightly taller frames. Charley, Walker and Woods contributed easy fast-break scoring chances and timely jumpers.

Navajo Prep’s Tai Tai Woods (24), Aiona Johnson (20) and Laila Charley (1) embrace each other after defeating Tohatchi 43-33 in the 3A girls basketball state championship game on Friday, March 13, 2020, at Dreamstyle Arena in Albuquerque. The Lady Eagles won their first state title since 2009.

All aforementioned players pressured opposing shooters on defense, too, getting quick steals and deflections in the process.

The Lady Eagles cruised to a 28-2 record and the 3A state title in 2020, ending an 11-year title drought.

Navajo Prep’s two losses came on the road against 4A heavyweights Gallup and Kirtland Central, the latter of which came down to the wire.

Prep is primed for another state title run because much of that same group will be intact.

Aztec wrestling three-peats, PV ends five-year title drought

The Tigers generated 246.5 team points in Class 4A for their third straight blue trophy, while the Panthers tallied 183 team points in Class 5A for their first blue trophy since 2015.

Aztec’s Bryson Valdez, Garrett Birzer, Bode Wooley, Zane Chapman, Malcolm Altisi and Caleb Varzeas all won individual titles.

Ezekiel Bejar was the only PV wrestler to win an individual title, but the Panthers ran up their team score with multiple wrestlers placing in the top six in their respective weight divisions.

Aztec's Mia Aguirre celebrates defeating Atrisco Heritage's Yalixza Gonzalez for the New Mexico State Wrestling Championships Girls 120-pound division title on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.

Lady Tigers shine in first-ever girls wrestling state tournament

Princess Altisi, Mia Aguirre and Makayla Munoz all brought home individual state titles.

Altisi finally outlasted Miyamura’s Nancy Rodriguez, who defeated Altisi in the previous two state finals matchups in 2018 and 2019 — before girls wresting became a state-sanctioned sport.

Rodriguez lunged twice at Altisi in the third period. Altisi snatched up Rodriguez both times for points to win in a 5-2 decision.

Aguirre won her title on a takedown in the final seconds of the third period, while Munoz won her title on a reversal midway through the third period.

The trio remains intact for a couple more seasons, with ample opportunity to establish expectations for Aztec’s future girls wrestling talent.

Farmington wrestling duo goes unbeaten en route to state titles

Cirrail Allison took down Rio Rancho’s Xavier Salazar with four unanswered points to win the 5A 170-pound state title, while Zack Small pinned Carlsbad’s Trystan Rogers a minute and 23 seconds into the opening period to win the 5A 182-pound state title.

After Salazar was called for a penalty, Allison freed himself from Salazar’s grasp and won on a crucial takedown.

Allison went 46-0 on the year, while Small compiled a 52-0 record.

Kirtland girls basketball makes back-to-back state finals appearances

Despite falling to Los Lunas in back-to-back state title games, Kirtland got there behind another strong defensive campaign.

The Lady Broncos allowed just 37.4 points a game during the 2019-2020 season.

The last time Kirtland made consecutive state finals appearances was between 2010 and 2012, winning it all twice.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577, mhollinshead@daily-times.com and on Twitter at @MattH_717.

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