Eagles lose late lead, fall in district final
Cold shooting plagues the top-seeded Eagles against Tohatchi
FARMINGTON – The Navajo Prep boys basketball team nearly sneaked out of the Eagles Nest with a District 1-3A title on Friday, but a lack of big-game experience did the Eagles in down the stretch.
Ahead 36-32, top-seeded Prep went ice cold inside the game's final two minutes against Tohatchi (14-16), and watched the visitors finish on an 11-0 run to win 43-36 in the district championship game.
Coach Rick Hoerner, who led the Eagles to more wins this season (20) than the team managed in the previous three campaigns combined (19), said he thought his players succumbed to the pressure.
"Before the game I asked how many guys have been in a district title game, and not one of them raised their hands," Hoerner said. "On every possession in those last couple of minutes, we played like there were five seconds left."
Prep (20-7) got off to a horrible start, shooting less than 20 percent from the field through one quarter. But the Eagles clawed their way back to a 2-point deficit by halftime.
Though he struggled from the field, as well, Nachae Nez notched a team-high 15 points and helped Prep take control of the game by the end of the third quarter.
Panic struck the team with the game on the line, Hoerner said. A bad turnover and poor shot selection led to Tohatchi's game-ending 11-0 run.
Saturday, March 5 marks the beginning of the state tournament for Prep. Hoerner said he'll do his best in the next week to get his team to shake off the disappointing ending of Friday's contest.
"I thought with the way we played for most of this year, we had a chance to win the district. And we just didn't do it," he said. "It was just a tough night all and all. I asked the guys after the game if they were content with the 20 wins or if they want to keep winning. And I got the feeling they want to keep winning."
The New Mexico Activities Association will release the Class 3A state tournament bracket some time Sunday
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.