Aztec overcomes slow start to beat Wingate

Karl Schneider
Aztec's Elana Kresl dribbles the ball toward the basket during Tuesday's game against Wingate at Aztec High School.

AZTEC – The Aztec girls basketball team bounced back from an ugly first half to dominate the second half and knock off Wingate 45-37 Tuesday night at Lillywhite Gym.

Poor shooting and multiple turnovers led to the Lady Tigers (3-1) scoring just 16 points in the first two quarters. But Wingate (0-3) didn’t find much success on offense during the first half either, and held just a 17-16 lead at halftime.

“We’re still trying to knock the rust off. It was the first home game, and the girls were kind of nervous,” Aztec head coach Robert McCaskill said of the first half. “The second half, they came out and played off of the energy of the crowd and played better.”

Coming out of the break, the Lady Tiger offense got on track. Aztec took its first lead at 21-20 with 6:15 remaining in the third quarter and never relinquished that advantage.

The Lady Tigers put together a 22-6 run from the start of the third quarter until 5:15 was left in the game.

Aztec’s Elana Kresl led all scorers with 18 points, but her defensive performance is what sparked the Aztec crowd and the rest of the Lady Tigers.

“The girls feed off of Elana’s defense. We thrive on it, and she did an amazing job in the second half with all her steals and deflections,” McCaskill said.

Aztec's Grace Olsen attempts a shot against Wingate Tuesday at Aztec High School.

Aztec will play Carlsbad (3-0) in the first round of Artesia’s tournament on Thursday.

“Aztec is not normally a basketball town, and going to these tournaments and playing against quality opponents will help the girls confidence,” McCaskill said. “It will help them get that mentality of bringing focus and attitude every single game.”

Shiprock 64, Farmington 55

Shiprock and Farmington battled back and forth through three quarters, but in the fourth, the Lady Chieftains pulled away, connecting on free throws down the stretch to pick up a 64-55 win over Farmington (3-3) Tuesday night at Scorpion Gym in Farmington.

After the third quarter ended with Shiprock (4-1) leading 42-41, the Lady Chieftains made eight free throws in a row to help pull away.

“They kept their head in the game, and I think that’s something we’ve missing,” Shiprock head coach Larenson Henderson said. “I’m really proud of the girls and of how they finished the game.”

Paige Dale led Shiprock with 19 points. Tanisha Begay added 15 in the win and Henderson said Kacey Begay hit multiple free throws late in the game to help secure the win.

Shiprock's Tanisha Begay shoots over Farmington's Tanisha Beetso on Tuesday at Scorpion Gym in Farmington.

“I thought we did a great job. Defensively, we kept them in front of us, and I think we stepped up our game defensively tonight, and they have some great players,” Farmington head coach Danny Secrest said. “I think we also rebounded well, but turnovers really cost us tonight.”

Tanisha Beetso and Brighton Clah led the Lady Scorps with 14 and 13 points each.

Shiprock will host Piedra Vista (6-0) on Friday.

“I think Farmington and PV have really stepped up their programs, and they’re making it exciting in the Four Corners,” Henderson said. “It should be a good, exciting game again Friday.”

Farmington will host Durango, Colo., (0-1) on Tuesday.

Piedra Vista 70, Cleveland 54

Piedra Vista kept its undefeated season alive, running past Cleveland 70-54 Tuesday night in Rio Rancho.

“They were rested from the weekend and came out ready to go tonight,” PV head coach Joe Reed said of the Lady Panthers. “They got after it defensively. The girls are starting to execute, and they’re getting to their spots on the court.”

Nykki Benally scored 28 points to lead PV, which made 17 of its 21 free throw attempts.

Alexis Long finished with 14 points, and Monique Russell added 9 for the Lady Panthers.

PV will play at Kirtland Central (2-2) on Thursday.

“I don’t have to get the girls pumped up to play Kirtland (Central),” Reed said. “They’ve been playing against each other since they were little girls, and they all want to win.”

Gallup 77, Kirtland Central 41

Kirtland Central couldn’t get enough shots to fall, and the result was a 77-41 loss to Gallup Tuesday night at Bronco Arena in Kirtland.

“We knew we’d see tons of pressure from them, and we did. I thought we handled their press pretty well, but we missed a ton of shots,” KC head coach John Zecca said. “I think if we made a few of those, it would have been a little different. I’m not saying we could have beaten them, but I also don’t think the score is indicative of how the game went.”

The Lady Broncos shot 33 percent from the field, missing a total of 54 shots on the night. Zecca credited Gallup’s 6-foot-1 Ni’asia McIntosh with influencing the Lady Broncos’ shots around the basket.

Zecca said Halie Gleason, who led KC with 19 points, and TJ Nez both had solid all-around games for KC.

KC will host Piedra Vista on Thursday.

Boys basketball

Navajo Prep 57, Bloomfield 55

Navajo Prep’s Nachae Nez came through when the Eagles needed him most, burying a 3-pointer with about five seconds remaining in the game to give Prep a 57-55 win over Bloomfield (4-1) Tuesday night at the Eagles Nest in Farmington.

“It was really a great all-around basketball game,” Prep head coach Rick Hoerner said. “We had the lead for probably 90 percent of the game, and then (Bloomfield) went off in the fourth quarter.”

But that’s when Prep (6-2) drew up a play to get Nez open for the 3-pointer, and the senior connected.

Nez led the Eagles with 14 points while Tehrall Martinez added 13.

Bloomfield’s Malachi Pablo finished with 23 points to lead all scorers.

Bloomfield will host Crownpoint (0-3) on Thursday.

Prep will host Thoreau (3-1) on Friday.

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.