Defense bails out Farmington on the road
FARMINGTON — The visiting Farmington boys basketball team overcame a tumultuous third quarter to hold off Shiprock and win 39-31 tonight at the Chieftain Pit.
The Scorpions (11-2) won their ninth game in their last 10 tries, but not before nearly breaking down in the third quarter and blowing the 16-point lead they had built.
Farmington went with the obvious strategy of feeding big man David Riley early and often against a small Shiprock front line, and that strategy paid off in the early going, as a few Riley slam dunks put FHS up 26-10 late in the first half.
The Scorps took a 12-point lead into the break, but were rattled by Shiprock's defense in the third quarter, where the visitors scored only 4 points. Farmington coach Paul Corley was frustrated by his guards' inability to break Shiprock's press.
"Our guards keep having the same problems, and they need to grow up and get past it," Corley said. "It's too late in the season to still be having these issues."
The Chieftains (4-8) outscored Farmington 12-4 in the third, and even made it a 1-point game at one point in the fourth. But they were doomed by bad offensive bookend quarters; Shiprock managed just 6 points in the first quarter and 5 in the fourth. Corley said his defense saved the day.
"Our defense was the key tonight," Corley said. "The defense has been carrying us."
Still, Shiprock coach Chester Atcitty admired the way his team fought against the team with the best record in District 1-5A.
"We showed a great defensive effort to put some fight in there and hold a team like that to 39 points," Atcitty said. "We didn't get off to a very good start, and that hurt us."
Farmington earned some breathing room late when Sol Rascon connected on an and-one, three-point play to increase Farmington's lead from 3 points to 6. The visitors staved off Shiprock from there.
Riley dropped a game-high 16 points for Farmington. Shiprock's Kevin Begay was the only player for Shiprock to score double digits. He had 12.
On Saturday, the Scorps look to get revenge on Bernaillo (5-9) for upsetting them in the first round of the playoffs last season. That game is at 7 p.m. at Scorpion Gym in Farmington.
The Chieftains don't play again until Tuesday, when they visit Kirtland Central (5-6).
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.