AZTEC — The Aztec boys basketball team got off to a great start at its home tourney, rolling through Crownpoint 77-29 in the Tigers’ first game at the Aztec Tiger Rumble in the Jungle tonight at Lillywhite Gym.
“We’re coming off of three losses (last week) in Roswell, and coming in we wanted to get a good win in front of our home crowd,” said Aztec junior guard Jake Fiel, who finished the day with 21 points after hitting six 3-pointers. “We wanted to build our confidence back up and get things going again.”
Defensively, the arm span of the Aztec players caused problems for Crownpoint, which struggled find openings for passes and couldn’t keep the Tigers off the boards.
Offensively, the Tigers (5-7) rained 3-pointers on the Eagles (2-6), connecting on 11 triples in the game.
Aztec coach Matthew Steinfeldt said the Tigers’ hot shooting was the result of the players feeding off of each other’s confidence.
The Tigers were simply too long and too athletic for the Eagles to match up with, jumping out to a 19-6 lead after the first quarter and extending the advantage to 39-16 at halftime.
“I think we had good matchups tonight. There’s no doubt about that, but we were able to execute, and I think that’s going to give us a lot of confidence going through the next two days of the tournament,” Steinfeldt said.
Cody Smith and Tanner Brooks finished with 14 points each for the Tigers.
Aztec will face Montrose, Colo., (3-7) in the second round of the round-robin tournament. The game is scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. Friday at Lillywhite Gym.
“We got a chance to watch them play against (Navajo) Prep, and I don’t think their record is indicative of how good they are,” Steinfeldt said of Montrose. “Their size is going to match up with ours, and we’re going to have to execute against them. We like some of the things we saw, but we also some things they do that are going to be areas of concern for us.”
Montrose, Colo., 46, Navajo Prep 34
In its first time back on the court in three weeks, the Navajo Prep boys basketball team looked a bit rusty in the first half, digging a 32-12 hole at halftime.
While the Eagles looked better in the second half, the 20-point deficit was too much to overcome as Prep fell 46-34 at the Tiger Rumble in the Jungle at Lillywhite Gym.
“We only practiced Tuesday night. After not playing for almost three weeks, we had one day of practice,” Prep coach Rick Hoerner said. “It’s not going to get any better. We have to play (Friday), Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. It’s the nature of the beast. We’ll keep playing hard and suck it up.”
After the rough start to the first half, the Eagles (8-2) played with more intensity in the second half, outscoring Montrose (3-7) 22-14.
“We preached not to worry about the score and to keep playing hard as you can because good things would happen, and eventually they did,” Hoerner said of his message at halftime. “It’s still going to be tough for us to shake off the rust the next week or so, but these guys are good kids with character, and they’ll handle it well.”
Dylan Begay led Prep with 13 points.
Prep will play Crownpoint (2-6) at 2:30 p.m. Friday in the second round of the round-robin tournament.
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.