AZTEC — While the Aztec boys basketball team lost 49-34 tonight against Piedra Vista, coach Matthew Steinfeldt said the Tigers won just by returning to the court after last week's school shooting.
"We won the moment we stepped back on the court," he said. "I think that's the most important thing for our boys at this point. Our kids being here with such an awesome community, such support that we have, that's a victory that we're going to take home. We're going to continue to take that home for a while."
Steinfeldt wore a black shirt with orange lettering reading, "Aztec Strong." On the back of the shirt, it read, "In memory of Casey and Paco."
The shirts were a common sight at the game, memorializing Casey Jordan Marquez and Francisco "Paco" Fernandez, the students who were killed during the shooting last week. Marquez was a cheerleader at Aztec High School, and Fernandez had played football for the Piedra Vista. Fernandez transferred to Aztec High School this year.
Aztec High School students have been out of school since the shooting on Dec. 7, but the basketball teams resumed practice on Monday. On Tuesday, the Tigers defeated Wingate High School 69-48. Tonight's game was the Tigers' first home game.
The Tigers entered the contest with a 3-1 mark this season. The Panthers entered the game with a 5-3 record.
Piedra Vista Coach Devon Manning said he expected the game to be highly emotional.
"We tried to approach it like a normal game," he said.
The game started with the two teams trading buckets, but the Panthers soon pulled ahead, and by halftime, Piedra Vista led by more than 20 points.
Manning said the Panthers methodically built on their lead over the course of the game.
Steinfeldt said the outcome was not indicative of the kind of team the Tigers are.
"We will play better basketball after this, but we certainly need to come home to our family, to this community and play basketball again and that was an awesome thing for us," he said.
The Tigers are back home to play Shiprock on Saturday. The Panthers will be home Tuesday to face Gallup.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at email@example.com.
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