Scorps come back from 15 down to beat Durango

Piedra Vista holds down Las Cruces to set up intercity championship game

Jake Newby
jnewby@pnj.com

FARMINGTON — Halftime adjustments made all the difference for the Farmington boys basketball team on Friday night.

Farmington's Sol Rascon, left, and David Riley celebrate after defeating Durango on Friday during the Marv Sanders Invitational at Scorpion Gym in Farmington.

The Scorpions trailed Durango by as many as 15 points in the first half before opting to play small ball in the second. The coaching decision led Farmington to a 47-44 comeback win over Durango in the Marv Sanders Invitational semifinals at Scorpion Gym.

FHS (4-1) will now play Piedra Vista (4-1) in an all-Farmington championship game at 5 p.m. today.

An athletic Demons squad proved to be problematic for center David Riley, who had scored a game-high 20 points the night before against Fabens, Texas. But Friday’s matchup just wasn’t a good one for the FHS big man, as he was beaten off the dribble repeatedly in the first half.

Subsequently, Riley didn’t leave the bench after halftime.

“We went to that full-court, man-to-man (defense),” Scorps coach Paul Corley said, of his mid-game adjustments. “The kids just really decided they weren’t going to lose tonight. That small adjustment to sit David made a difference tonight.”

Those halftime tweaks were necessary for an FHS team that looked flat in the beginning. Durango (3-2) came out hot, hitting jumpers and scoring in transition to open a 26-11 mid-second-quarter lead.

Farmington cut the deficit to 11 by halftime, then took over the game in the third.

Five Scorpion players made buckets in the third quarter. Farmington’s depth was too much for Durango, which went with a six-man rotation on Friday and wasn’t able to sustain its high early-game energy level.

“Nick Granger was big off the bench. Sol Rascon played big minutes for us,” Corley said. “We really emphasize to our bench, ‘You gotta come in and be positive.’ Our bench was the difference, we played eight, nine, maybe even 10 guys tonight, and that really wore (Durango) down in the second half.”

Granger was huge in the fourth period for Farmington. The junior converted a key 3-point play to open a 43-37 lead for FHS.

The Scorps’ pressure forced Durango to commit two big turnovers in the game’s last two minutes, which Farmington owned.

Corley said the atmosphere for the FHS/PV game today should make it a fun game.

“It’s a rivalry game,” he said. “I’m excited about it. Coach (Adam) Huff, he does a great job at PV. I have a lot of respect for him and his kids. This will be the first of a few times we play, so I hope the people in Farmington come out and watch.”

Piedra Vista 51, Las Cruces 44

PV coach Adam Huff got a fundamentally sound game out of his team in Friday’s Marv Sanders semifinal game, as PV beat 6A’s Las Cruces 51-44 at Scorpion Gym.

The Panthers only trailed for a short time in the second quarter and are now enjoying a four-game win streak. Their tough defense and unwillingness to give up second-chance shots helped them close out the game.

Piedra Vista's Fidel Castillo takes a shot while defended by Las Cruces' Devon Esslinger on Friday during the Marv Sanders Invitational at Scorpion Gym in Farmington.

“You always gotta play sound defense against a Las Cruces team because they run their stuff like it’s off the back of their hand. They’re very fundamental,” Huff said. “At the end, we got a lot of defensive rebounds, and that’s what finishes up the stops.”

Ahead 21-16 at halftime, PV watched Bulldawgs guard Markus Collins score 9 points in the third quarter to cut PV’s lead down to just a point. But Keegan Acosta and Sterlin Begaye hit three crucial 3-pointers between them later in the third quarter to bring PV’s lead back up to 7, and then the Panther defense really cracked down in the fourth to secure the win.

PV went 14 of 18 from the free throw line and avoided silly turnovers late while Las Cruces was hit with a series of traveling calls. Huff said the Panthers lived up to his game plan on Friday.

“Turnovers, rebounds and making free throws are our keys every single game,” he said. “You hit on at least two of those three on the positive side, you’re gonna win a lot of ball games. The first half was a little ugly, turnover wise and especially rebounding, but we cleaned it up in the second half and got a good win.”

Kirtland Central 51, San Juan 42

The Broncos finally broke into the win column on Friday afternoon by besting San Juan (Blanding, Utah) 51-42 at Scorpion Gym in the consolation bracket of the Marv Sanders Invitational.

The game wasn’t pretty, but KC’s defense made up for its offensive shortcomings in the second half. Big men Bryson Dowdy, Noah Lee and Jimmy Nez played excellent post defense for Kirtland, which never trailed.

Kirtland Central's Ty Yellowman drives the lane toward the basket on Friday against San Juan, Utah, at the Marv Sanders Invitational at Scorpion Gym in Farmington.

KC coach Brian Dowdy leaned heavily on his reserves — like Lee and Nez — and he gave heavy minutes to his bench players down the stretch.

“Going with the bench was strictly defensive, and our offense kind of suffered there for a while,” Dowdy said. “But I looked at the clock and saw we had a 7-point lead with two minutes to go, so I figured if we could hold them down for just a couple minutes longer, we could pull it out. And we did.”

Ty Yellowman scored a game-high 9 points for the Broncos, who play Cleveland today at 1:30 p.m. in the fifth-place game.

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.