Eagles bounce back, soar past Thunderbirds

Karl Schneider

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Prep boys basketball team displayed its ability to put a bad loss behind it tonight.

Navajo Prep's Thomas Montañez shoots over Zuni's Landers Shelendewa on Wednesday at the Eagles Nest in Farmington.

After getting clobbered by Capital 80-16 Tuesday night in Santa Fe, the Eagles bounced back and dominated Zuni for a 64-41 victory at the Eagles Nest.

“I was really pleased with how fast they got over (Tuesday) night. They probably got over it faster than I did,” Prep coach Rick Hoerner said. “I thought we might have a little problem with legs being tired and being mentally tired because all the seniors had to do presentations in class today, but I was pleased with our energy. It was a good way to end that stretch of games.”

The game was the Eagles' sixth in seven days, with the team going 3-3 during the stretch.

The win also saw the Eagles break out of a free-throw shooting slump that plagued them in their previous two games this week.

In losses to Kirtland Central on Monday and Capital on Tuesday, the Eagles were a combined 4 for 21 from the stripe. But against Zuni, they shot 13 for 19.

“When we got out of school today, we made everyone shoot 50 (free throws)," Hoerner said. "It kind of helped a little bit. It was definitely better than the last two nights, that’s for sure.”

Prep never trailed in the game and led by double digits nearly the entire way.

Navajo Prep's Kwambene Mack floats past Zuni's Marlon Lowsayate for a layup Wednesday at the Eagles Nest in Farmington.

Through most of the game, Prep’s offense was simple and to the point: attack the basket. The Eagles (11-4) regularly attacked the Thunderbirds (3-11) off of the dribble, getting into the paint for high-percentage shots, or kicked the ball out to shooters on the perimeter for open looks at 3.

After starting the first quarter cold from the field, the Eagles warmed up from deep, hitting five 3-pointers in the first half to help separate from Zuni.

The Thunderbirds made a slight push midway through the second quarter, cutting Prep’s lead to 22-11. But the Eagles went on a 9-0 run over the next two minutes to push their lead to 20 points with 2:23 remaining in the first half.

After taking a 38-16 lead into halftime, Prep continued to control the game in the second half, rarely letting the Thunderbirds within 20 points, and even extended its lead to 33 early in the fourth quarter.

Trejan Clichee led Prep with 14 points after hitting three 3-pointers. Kwabene Mack finished with 11 points to help pace the Eagles.

All 12 players saw action in the game, and 10 found the scoring column.

Prep will get one day off before travelling to Santa Fe on Friday to face Desert Academy (7-7).

Hoerner said he doesn’t know much about the Wildcats (7-7), other than the Eagles will have their hands full trying to contain John Rigatti, a 6-foot-4 senior who’s averaging 32.4 points per game this season.

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.