Tigers stumble down the stretch, fall 77-75

Karl Schneider

AZTEC — The Aztec boys basketball team let one slip away.

Aztec's Chase Morrison attacks the basket for a layup against Gallup on Thursday at Lillywhite Gym in Aztec.

The Tigers led almost the entire game against Gallup, and were up by as many as 11 points early in the fourth quarter. But the team's lack of experience of playing with a lead, and a cold stretch from the free-throw line in the fourth resulted in Aztec falling 77-75 tonight at Lillywhite Gym.

"Coming out of halftime we talked about playing with a lead, because we haven't seen that in some time," Aztec coach Matthew Steinfeldt said. "Down the stretch, we continued to play up-tempo. It's something we talked about this week and we felt like that gave us the best chance. We still manufactured quite a few points in the final two or three minutes, but the issue was free throws down the stretch. I think that was one of the biggest issues, and certainly inexperience playing with a lead."

The Tigers went 5 for 13 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter.

Up 75-72 with 39 seconds left, Aztec missed a pair of free throws.

Gallup's Cyrus John buried a 3-pointer from the left corner to tie the game.

Aztec (5-20, 0-9 District 1-5A) moved the ball down the court quickly and got a decent look at the hoop with a shot in the paint, but it was no good and the rebound fell to the Bengals.

Gallup (11-14, 5-4) made a long outlet to get the ball down court and finished with a layup to take a 77-75 lead with five seconds left.

Three Tigers finished in double digits. Cody Smith led the way with 24 points, followed by Jake Feil and Charlie Morrison with 18 and 10 points, respectively.

Aztec will host Miyamura (11-14, 2-7) on Saturday.

Farmington 63, Miyamura 44

The Scorpions saved their best for last tonight against Miyamura (11-14, 2-7 District 1-5A) when they exploded for a 28-point fourth quarter and toppled the Patriots 63-44.

The game was knotted at 35 after three quarters, at which time a light switched on for Farmington (22-3, 8-1), according to coach Paul Corley.

"Our defense created some turnovers, and once we got an 8-point lead, we spread it out and they weren't able to guard us," Corley said. "Credit to Miyamura, they battled us tough all night. I think it was our seniors deciding, 'We're better and we're gonna go get this win.' And that's what they did."

Seven Scorps scored in the fourth quarter. Sol Rascon played a good all-around game and finished with a team-high 20 points. David Riley added 13.

Farmington will try to capture the regular-season district title on Saturday at Bloomfield (12-12, 5-4).

Navajo Prep 69, Thoreau 31

Navajo Prep blew the game open in the third quarter, outscoring Thoreau (7-18, 0-5) 20-4 and never looked back on the way to a 69-31 rout tonight in Thoreau.

"We played really well and clamped down on them defensively," Prep coach Rick Hoerner said. "We only gave up 4 points in the third quarter and put it away in the second half."

Hoerner added that the Eagles moved the ball well on offense and had balanced scoring.

Dylan Begay and Trejan Clichee led Prep with 12 points apiece.

The Eagles will host Wingate (12-13, 5-0) on Saturday. Wingate has already secured the regular-season district title and the No. 1 seed in the district tournament, which begins next week.

Wingate 53, Shiprock 51

Just like they did on Feb. 2, the Chieftains coughed up a fourth-quarter lead to Wingate and lost because they were unable to hit their free throws.

The Bears (12-13, 5-0) locked up the regular-season District 1-4A championship by overcoming an 8-point fourth-quarter deficit and winning 53-51 tonight in Fort Wingate.

"There were a bunch of 1-and-1 (free throw) situations down the stretch and we went 4-for-9 in the fourth quarter," Shiprock coach Chester Atcitty said. "We haven't been able to shoot well from the free-throw line to close out games."

The Chieftains (10-15, 2-3) were 7-for-15 overall from the charity stripe in the contest. Atcitty said the Chiefs' ineptitude from the line of late has been puzzling.

"I have decent free-throw shooters. In practice we're shooting 80 to 90 percent," he said. "But it's that mental portion that kicks in. They get those tired legs, and of course the loud crowd gets to them. Bottom line is, we gotta learn from it."

Justin Yazzie had 12 points for Shiprock, which takes on Thoreau (7-18, 0-5) at home on Saturday.

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

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