FARMINGTON — The Lady Eagles won their opener on Thursday, and the Navajo Prep boys basketball team followed suit tonight in the same building.
The Eagles overcame a massive height disadvantage up front through toughness and effort, and that earned them a 61-44 win over Bosque at the Eagles Nest.
"Even though I thought we were maybe three or four inches shorter across the front, I just thought our guys were physically tougher and more experienced," Prep coach Rick Hoerner said. "They're small, but they know how to play in the post."
Forwards Anthony Pioche-Lee, Dylan Begay and Tyler Pete — who are all less than 6 feet 3 inches tall — were the front court players who used their weight and experience to create an advantage inside against Bosque, which has three players who are at least 6-foot-6. Pioche-Lee and Begay are seniors, while Peter, a junior, is in his third year on varsity.
Early on, while Bosque struggled with turnovers and poor shooting selection, the Eagles were active in defending passing lanes, and they generally controlled the paint.
The hosts took a 28-21 lead into halftime but ran into some trouble in the third.
The Bobcats deployed a more aggressive full-court press at times after the half, and that helped them cut Prep's lead down to 3 points in the third.
During one sequence, Bosque forced two turnovers in a matter of 20 seconds, leading to an 8-3 Bobcats run. Hoerner then called a timeout to make substitutions.
"We tried to play everybody a little bit more than I normally would have," Hoerner said. "Our young guys and our first-time varsity guys, they weren't quite ready for varsity. I wish we could have got them a little more cushion and let them play it out."
Pioche-Lee, who had 13 points, and Tyler Morgan, who paced the Eagles with 15 points, got back on the floor late in the third and helped boost their team's advantage back up to 10 points.
Prep then played it cool in the face of Bosque's frenetic full-court pressure in the final quarter, continually beating the Bobcats' press up court for easy buckets. Hoerner said he thinks his players learned their lesson after the press burned them in the third.
"We had a talk about it. (Bosque) got two scores, which actually helped them cut it to 3, and we had to go in there and go, 'Whoa, remember what we do in practice? Let's actually try it,'" Hoerner said. "Once we did what we were supposed to do, we got nice two-on-ones with our bigs at the other end."
Pioche-Lee, Begay and Lee finished with a combined 35 points. Hoerner said the passing ability his three big men possess helped Prep win the final frame 18-11.
"Our bigs pass the ball well in transition for bigs," Hoerner said. "So I'm real confident that with those guys, in a two-on-one situation, we're gonna get a basket out of it."
The Eagles get back to work after Thanksgiving with a road game against Monument Valley, Utah, on Nov. 29.
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.