Scorps sting Bengals 54-50 for district title

Karl Schneider

FARMINGTON – The Farmington boys basketball team got a bit of revenge on Gallup Friday night.

Last season, Gallup swept the Scorps in District 1-5A regular-season and tournament play, then completed a 21-point fourth-quarter comeback in the 5A state quarterfinals at The Pit in Albuquerque to end Farmington’s season.

But this year, the Scorps knocked off Gallup in both regular-season games, then finished off the Bengals with a 54-50 victory in front of a packed crowd at Scorpion Gym for the district tournament title.

“Last year, they did the same thing to us, so this feels like a little bit of revenge to finally get here and get (last year) off our back,” Farmington senior guard Berrett Bentley said. “This one was more for pride — we wanted to get back at them. At The Pit, they ruined us there, so tonight, we wanted to show them we’re Farmington and that we were going to change things.”

Farmington's Berrett Bentley attacks the basket during a game against Gallup on Friday at Scorpion Gym.

Farmington head coach Paul Corley said that he thought the loss in the state tournament last year helped prepare his team mentally for Friday night. He also had a special message for the Scorps before the game.

“‘If you’re going to come into the Scorpions’ nest, you better be ready for a sting.’ That was the message to them before the game, and I think we stung them (Gallup),” Corley said.

The two sides went back and forth throughout the game. The largest lead for both teams was 6 points.

After Farmington led most of the first quarter, Gallup (21-7) took an 18-16 lead into the second, but the Scorps (23-4) regained control and held a 32-28 advantage at halftime.

Farmington gained its largest lead of the game — 34-28 — in the opening minute of the third, but the Bengals locked up the Scorps and took a 42-40 lead into the final quarter.

With less than two minutes remaining in the game, Gallup’s Colton Lowley — who hit the game winner over Farmington last year at The Pit in the 61-59 win — tied the game at 47. But Bentley answered immediately to give Farmington the lead again.

Lowley responded with a 3-pointer from the right corner to put the Bengals back on top 50-49 with a little more than one minute remaining.

On Farmington’s next possession, senior Diego Corley drew a foul and went to the line shooting one-and-one. He converted both attempts to regain the lead.

Then, with 37 seconds left, Gallup’s Ronald Lee was called for a moving screen to give possession back to the Scorps. And again, it was Corley who drew a foul and knocked down the free throws to give Farmington a 53-50 advantage.

Farmington's Diego Corley shoots during a game against Gallup on Friday at Scorpion Gym.

Corley said during the late-game free throws he kept telling himself to relax.

“It’s just like practice, just like shooting. There’s no big difference,” he said.

With 21.5 second remaining, Gallup put the ball in Lowley’s hands. The senior put up a 3 from the right corner, the same spot he connected from two possessions prior. But this time, Farmington’s Sol Rascon was there to contest, and the ball clanked off of the rim.

Farmington’s David Riley corralled the rebound and was fouled with 0.8 seconds remaining. He made the first free throw to secure the 54-50 victory.

Riley led Farmington with 19 points while Diego Corley finished with 18

Farmington now waits to learn its seed in the state tournament. The tournament bracket will be revealed on Sunday, and the Scorps are hoping for a No. 3 seed.

Regardless of where the selection committee puts them, Friday’s packed crowd and environment will serve as a learning experience if the Scorps can make it out of the first round and return to The Pit.

“It’s a great experience,” Diego Corley said of Friday night. “We usually never get this many fans in here, and it’s just going to prepare us for The Pit, and that’s what we’re trying to get ready for.”

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