Scorps fall apart late, lose in 5A quarterfinal

Jake Newby

ALBUQUERQUE — The Farmington boys basketball team watched a 9-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter go up in flames during Wednesday's 5A quarterfinal at The Pit.

Farmington's Sol Rascon drives the lane against Kayden Walker-Gabaldon of Los Lunas on Wednesday at The Pit in Albuquerque.

No. 6 Los Lunas (25-5) erupted in the final period of play, going on a 26-4 run at one point and eventually stunning the No. 3 Scorpions by winning 63-51 and eliminating them from the state playoffs.

The Scorps (26-4) played solid basketball for three quarters and didn't trail in the game until the five-minute mark of the fourth. FHS coach Paul Corley said that while tough to swallow, the big swing in momentum wasn't unprecedented.

"I've done this long enough that I've been on one side of it, and I've been on the other side," Corley said, of the huge fourth-quarter swing. "It's a really emotional moment, and you know, we played great basketball for three quarters. We had some bad turnovers there that led to some easy baskets, but, I wouldn't trade these kids for anybody. We had a great year. You can't take that away from us."

Farmington's Nick Granger drives to the hoop for a layup against Los Lunas on Wednesday at The Pit in Albuquerque.

Farmington took a 27-18 lead into halftime thanks to 9 points apiece from Sol Rascon and Nick Granger. Rascon finished with an FHS-high 19 points, while Granger chipped in with 15.

Rascon said he tried to be aggressive throughout.

"I just tried to attack," Rascon said. "Just pretty much attack as much as I can and try to lead my team."

Attacking the basket was certainly one thing Rascon and his teammates excelled at for most of the contest, as the Scorps scored 28 points in the paint over the first three quarters.

Los Lunas ripped off a quick 8-0 run to begin the third, briefly making it a 1-point deficit. But Farmington weathered that storm and got its lead back up to 9 by the end of that period.

But the wheels came off in the fourth, and Los Lunas guard Kayden Walker-Gabaldon contributed mightily to the Farmington collapse by dropping 16 of his game-high 25 points in the final frame. Farmington couldn't find a rhythm and also couldn't hold onto the ball, committing seven turnovers in both the third and fourth quarters, and 26 on the night.

Farmington's David Riley goes for a hook shot against Zanen Zeller of Los Lunas on Wednesday at The Pit in Albuquerque.

The back-to-back District 1-5A champion Scorps have gone 49-9 combined in the last two regular seasons, but hold a disappointing 1-2 mark over the last two state tournaments. But Corley said Farmington's recent string of quick playoff exits doesn't do justice to the program's progress.

"We gotta remember, it's not all about winning," Corley said. "When I was hired five years ago, they never talked about winning in the interview. They talked about helping young men grow. I think sometimes we get too focused on the wins and losses, and really what it's about — it's about these young men, and helping them in life. Like today, handling disappointment. This will help them in life."

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