Panthers play well, still fall to district-leading Cleveland 79-62

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FARMINGTON — Though the game played out similarly through three quarters, the Navajo Prep boys basketball team avoided the fate it endured the last time the Eagles played Shiprock, and instead ripped off a 54-48 win tonight over the Chieftains at the Eagles Nest.

On Jan. 26, Prep (14-8, 2-2 District 1-4A) led for roughly three full quarters but sputtered down the stretch. Then tonight, after maintaining a lead for much of the game, the Eagles almost allowed the visiting Chieftains to gain control late in the third quarter.

But Prep's youngsters — led by freshman Lance Morris, who hit five 3-pointers in the game — were able to finish what they started this time around.

"It was nice to see our young guys actually learn how to put away a game," Eagles coach Rick Hoerner said. "Because we had Wingate on the ropes Tuesday night and didn't finish it there, either, and kind of put ourselves behind the eight ball."

The win pulls the Eagles into a second-place tie in the District 1-4A standings with the Chieftains (10-14, 2-2). Both squads are looking up at the Bears, who are 3-0 in the district and have defeated both Prep and Shiprock.

Tonight, Prep got cooking in the second quarter, when it turned a 1-point lead coming out of the opening quarter into a 25-16 advantage more than midway through the second.

But the Chiefs chipped away behind key late-second quarter 3-balls by Justin Yazzie and Landon Henderson, which allowed the visitors to enter halftime facing only a 25-22 deficit.

Shiprock then really made its run in the third quarter. Back-to-back baskets by Shiprock big man Cota Nakhai knotted the game at 34 near the two-minute mark of the frame, but that's as close as Shiprock got all night.

The Eagles exploded out of the fourth-quarter gate with a 9-0 run and were able to hold the lead from then on, mostly because they didn't shoot themselves in the foot.

"We didn't turn it over," Hoerner said. "Putting Dylan (Begay) in the middle of the floor, so if all else failed, and we got in a jam, you could throw it to the big guy and hope things work out. So we moved him to the middle of the court, hoping that would take the pressure off those guards."

Chiefs coach Chester Atcitty credited Prep for bringing the fight for 32 minutes.

"Offensively, we weren't executing well," Atcitty said. "We weren't communicating well with what we needed to run. But (Prep) had a great game plan, they were ready for us, they did a good job tonight. So, we've just got to keep our head up, keep working hard."

Prep visits Thoreau (7-15, 0-3) on Tuesday, while Shiprock heads to Wingate (10-13, 3-0).

Cleveland 79, Piedra Vista 62

The Panthers played well against the District 1-6A leading Storm tonight at the Jerry A. Conner Fieldhouse in Farmington, especially considering Piedra Vista lost by 53 points when the teams met in January.

PV played a relatively clean game in front of its home fans, committing only 10 turnovers and hanging within 10 points of Cleveland (19-6, 6-1) near the end of the contest. But the Storm made the shots it needed to make inside the final two minutes and won 79-62.

"The effort is there, the heart is there, the hustle is there, everything is there," PV coach Devon Manning said of his team. "Just at the end of the game, we still are struggling to finish these big-moment games."

Jarrett Graham had a double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds in the loss.

PV hit a 3 to cut Cleveland's lead down to 6 points with under three minutes to go, but Cleveland responded by putting a nail in the coffin with back-to-back 3s of its own to bump the Storm's lead back up to 12.

Brady Brown added 12 points and Jason Compton scored 10 for the Panthers, who are off until Feb. 17, when they host Rio Rancho (16-8, 3-3).

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

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