Slow start dooms Aztec against Montrose

Navajo Prep uses strong second half to wallop Crownpoint 71-37

Jake Newby

AZTEC — A 21-4 first-quarter deficit could not be undone by the Aztec boys basketball team tonight against Montrose, Colo., on the second day of the Aztec Tiger Rumble in the Jungle at Lillywhite Gym.

Aztec's Jacob Feil takes possession of the ball while defended by Montrose's Connor Imus, (4) and Kyle Stevenson (44) on Friday at Lillywhite Gym in Aztec.

Inconsistency has been the theme of the the first half of the season for Aztec (5-8), which won by 48 points on Thursday before coming back 24 hours later and falling 61-51 to a Montrose team that is still two games below .500 with the win.

"I think there's a good team in there somewhere, and I've got to do a better job of channeling us into consistent play," Aztec coach Matthew Steinfeldt said.

The Tigers were behind the entire game, but showed signs of life throughout, thanks in part to Jacob Feil and his four 3-pointers in the middle two quarters. But Feil, who finished with five triples and a team-high 17 points, canceled some of his positive contributions out with multiple no-look passes into post traffic that went for turnovers down the stretch. He also fouled out in the game's final seconds.

Aztec's Tanner Brooks attempts a shot while defended by Montrose's Kyle Stevenson (44) and  Andru Aragon (23) on Friday at Lillywhite Gym in Aztec.

Steinfeldt said Feil represents a young roster that is still learning how to win games.

"We're still working through some experience issues," Steinfeldt said. "We don't want the turnover ratio to be as high as it is. (Feil) certainly would bring us back at times, and we lived with him last night with his success, but he also knows that he can't try to do too much. And there were moments tonight where, perhaps, we were all trying to do too much."

Aztec had no shortage of energy after halftime, but failed to ever get any closer than 8 points.

Guards Sean Alex and Kade Terrell were on point tonight for Montrose (5-7), scoring a combined 36 points and draining six 3-pointers between them.

"We saw Montrose against Navajo Prep yesterday, and we knew that (Alex) and (Terrell) could make some shots. We saw that they were streaky, and we wanted to avoid getting them going," Steinfeldt said. "Unfortunately for us, they got those shots within the first four minutes. I thought we fought extremely hard, but we could never really get out of that, about, 10- or 12-point gap that we were in."

On Saturday, the Tigers battle another team trying to go 2-1 over the three-day tournament when they take on Navajo Prep (9-2). That game kicks off at 3:30 p.m.

Navajo Prep 71, Crownpoint 37

Navajo Prep learned it will be without three starters and four players total for the rest of the season due to violations of school regulations, but today, some of the more inexperienced Eagles stepped up against Crownpoint.

Prep (9-2) turned an 11-point halftime lead into a 34-point victory over the Crownpoint Eagles (2-7), winning 71-37 at the Aztec Tiger Rumble in the Jungle.

Navajo Prep's Dylan Begay puts up a shot against Crownpoint on Friday at Lillywhite Gym in Aztec.

Playing in just his second game in more than a month, freshman Thomas Montanez scored 8 of his 10 points in the second half.

Navajo Prep's Thomas Montanez attempts a layup against Crownpoint on Friday at Lillywhite Gym in Aztec.

This season, Prep has relied on its rotation of three big men — Tyler Pete, Anthony Pioche-Lee and Dylan Begay — to score around 30 points per night for the team. But the Eagles also received balance from their perimeter until the suspensions left Eagles coach Rick Hoerner suddenly shuffling to fill the void.

"We lost our best 3-point shooters, by percentage and by numbers, so someone's got to step up and start hitting them," Hoerner said. "So that's why it was big to see Thomas have a strong second half shooting it for us."

Crownpoint ran a lot of zone on defense, and Hoerner said he encouraged his guards to shoot through it in the first half and play without fear of being benched.

Prep attacked that zone even harder in the second half, particularly in the third quarter, where the Eagles scored 26 points.

Begay had a team-high 12 points for Prep, which faces off with Aztec at 3:30 p.m. Saturday on the final day of the three-day tournament.

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.