FARMINGTON – The Aztec girls basketball team continued its improvement on what is already one of its best seasons in recent years with a 55-34 win over Farmington Thursday night at Scorpion Gym.
“We took a step forward mentally tonight,” Aztec head coach Robert McCaskill said. “We have all the tools to do what we need to, but mentally, we still need to take that next step ... ”
Farmington started hot, getting back-to-back 3-pointers from Tanisha Beetso on the Lady Scorps’ first two possessions. But the 6-0 lead disappeared as Farmington went through a scoring drought that lasted nearly six minutes.
“I thought after that, we were settling way too much for 3s,” Farmington head coach Danny Secrest said of Beetso’s triples and the ensuing scoring drought. “I know they were falling on those first two, but you can shoot yourself right out of a game, and we might have done that instead of attacking the basket.”
While the Lady Scorps (9-11, 2-4 District 1-5A) struggled to get shots to fall, Aztec’s Elana Kresl took over for the Lady Tigers (18-6, 4-2), scoring 10 points in the opening quarter to give Aztec a 17-8 lead heading to the second period.
In the second quarter, both offenses had issues scoring, but Aztec’s Myra McCaskill did enough to maintain the Lady Tigers’ cushion by scoring 7 of her team’s 8 points in the period and sent the game to halftime with her squad up 25-16.
The two sides continued to battle in the third quarter, but with Aztec up 30-21 with a little more than three minutes remaining, Makayla McCaskill connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to push Aztec’s lead to 36-21.
The Lady Tigers went on to outscore Farmington 16-7 in the third quarter and never allowed the Lady Scorps within 15 points for the remainder of the game.
Farmington struggled throughout the game to connect on jump shots, and Secrest credited Aztec freshman Reigan Weaver, who’s listed at 6-foot-2, with intimidating the Lady Scorps from attacking the basket and settling for jumpers.
“It’s just a little bit of lack of effort from us. I don’t know what it is, if it’s me or them or what, but it’s just one of those games where you have a rough night, and it was one of those tonight,” Secrest said.
On the night, Aztec went to the free-throw line 33 times, converting 19 of its attempts.
“Everybody knows we are a shooting team. If they (the defense) back off, regardless of who’s out there, we’re going to knock down the 3,” McCaskill said. “They (the Lady Scorps) were pushing up really tight, and I’m proud of our girls for getting around, creating a good angle and getting to the rim.”
Nine players scored for Farmington, but none cracked double digits. Brighton Clah led the Lady Scorps with 7 points.
Makayla McCaskill led Aztec with 14 points, followed by Kresl’s 13 and Myra McCaskill’s 11.
Farmington will play a nondistrict game at Albuquerque’s West Mesa (10-11) on Saturday.
Aztec will host Gallup (22-0, 5-0) Saturday night at Lillywhite Gym. A win for the Lady Tigers would move them into second place in the district standings.
“They (the Lady Tigers) remember when we played Gallup last year in our house — we had a big lead, but let it go. They remember when we went down there this year — we had a lead and let it go,” McCaskill said of the Gallup matchup. “They’re really excited to play at our place, and they know they can contend with them and play well.”
Gallup 64, Piedra Vista 51
Piedra Vista and Gallup battled back and forth for the better part of three and a half quarters, but the Lady Bengals held off PV 64-51 to keep their undefeated season intact.
“It was a great basketball game. Energy was good, the game plan was perfect, they (Gallup) just shot better than us in the second half and had fewer turnovers,” PV head coach Joe Reed said.
After Nykki Benally hit a half-court shot at the buzzer, PV (15-7, 3-3) led 30-25 at halftime.
But Gallup (22-0, 5-0) stole the momentum from the Lady Panthers early in the third quarter, forcing a few turnovers that led to easy layups and taking a 49-43 lead into the fourth.
Reed said PV stayed within 5 or 6 points for most of the fourth quarter, but Gallup pulled away in the final two minutes to seal the win.
Benally led PV with 24 points. Monique Russell added 14.
PV will host Miyamura (8-14, 0-5) on Saturday.
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.