AZTEC — The Navajo Prep boys basketball team avenged one of last season’s losses in dramatic fashion today.
The Eagles got key plays from freshman Lance Morris and sophomore Trejan Clichee, and a pair of gutty free throws from Tyler Pete in the final minute to tame the Tigers 53-48 at Lillywhite Gym.
“I’m thankful that they’re able to persevere. That’s just who they are,” Prep coach Rick Hoerner said of the Eagles. “Trejan made a block at the end of the game, and he probably hasn’t played 10 minutes in a moderately close game all year, and now he’s playing huge minutes for us. And the freshman Morris hit two huge free throws for us.”
After trailing nearly the entire game, the Tigers took a 46-45 lead after a Jake Feil 3-pointer with 1:15 left in the game, but the lead only last a few seconds as Prep went the length of the court and scored on its next possession.
Prep (10-2) got a pair of free throws from Morris, then a steal and transition layup from Clichee to make it 51-46 with about 30 seconds remaining.
But Aztec (5-9) didn’t go away, getting a quick bucket to get the deficit back to one possession at 51-48.
After breaking the Tigers full-court press, Prep got the ball to Pete, who attacked from the left side and drew a foul.
Pete, who hurt his knee on the play, drained both free throws to secure the win before collapsing to the floor, holding his right knee, as he tried to make it to Prep’s bench.
“For Pete to do what he did, to do what he did and step up to the line and hit them, I didn’t even know he was in pain until the second shot,” Hoerner said. “He knocked them both down and then went to the floor. What he did was incredible.”
Aztec went the first five minutes without a point, giving the Tigers and their fans flashbacks to Friday night’s game against Montrose, Colo., when Aztec scored just 2 points in the first quarter.
“I think if I knew what the problem was, we’d have a few more wins,” Aztec coach Matthew Steinfeldt said of the Tigers’ slow starts. “I don’t know what it is, and we’re searching for that answer. There hasn’t been a game we’ve started well offensively. We’re still figuring some things out.”
Navajo Prep will host Kirtland Central (5-6) on Monday.
Aztec will host Bernalillo (5-10) on Friday.
Farmington 65, Bernalillo 35
The Farmington defense held Bernalillo (5-10) to just 14 points in the second half and cruised to a 65-35 victory, avenging last year’s 52-50 loss in the first round of the 5A state tournament, tonight at Scorpion Gym.
The game was tied at 19 late in the second quarter when the Scorps (12-2) went on an 11-2 run to take a 30-21 lead into halftime.
“We switched to a full-court man press. We started to face guard them and denying them, and that really gave them problems,” Farmington coach Paul Corley said. “We got a few turnovers that led to some easy baskets for us.”
In the third quarter, the Scorps got hot from beyond the arc, hitting four 3-pointers in the quarter.
Corley said the team’s ability to knock down shots from long range will be a key moving forward as more and more teams move to a zone defense to try to negate the size Farmington has in the post.
Sol Rascon led Farmington with 16 points. Kody Becenti finished with 12 points.
Farmington will face crosstown rival Piedra Vista (7-8) at the Jerry A. Conner Fieldhouse on Tuesday.
To’hajiilee 52, Northwest 48
The Northwest girls basketball team made too many mistakes down the stretch and dropped a 52-48 decision to To’hajiilee tonight on the road.
“It was a very close game throughout. The girls played well, but turnovers and rebounding cost us at the end,” Northwest coach Mike Christy said in a text message.
Rayeisha Thomas led the Lady Falcons with 13 points. Naomi Begaye added 12 points.
Northwest will play its first District 1-2A game on Tuesday at Navajo Pine (3-5).
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.