FARMINGTON – Navajo Prep’s been one-and-done in the state basketball playoffs, time after time.
The Eagles sought to change that in Saturday’s 3A playoff opener against New Mexico Military Institute, but recent history repeated itself as Prep left the Eagles Nest frustrated with a 54-40 loss.
The Eagles endured a tougher non-district schedule and cruised through district, hopeful they’d be ready for a deeper playoff run. Prep instead endured its fourth straight first-round exit.
“It’s tricky, man. The games get tougher. You just learn from it. At the end of the day, the ultimately goal is to win at the end,” Eagles coach Matt Melvin said. “We had chances. We came down, and we didn’t even get shots or we took really quick ones on the first pass.”
Prep missed plenty of easy looks and committed multiple turnovers attacking the driving lanes, from offensive foul calls to throwing the ball away.
“Our guys did a really good job of keeping (penetrating shooters) in front tonight. They didn’t hit enough shots. We did a good enough job closing it out to make it tough,” NMMI coach Connor Williamson said.
Even on consecutive defensive stops, the Eagles couldn’t deliver attacking in transition. Each time that happened, the frustration kept building.
“We’d get three stops, come down and get nothing out of those three possessions,” Melvin said. “It’s the last thing you want. You want to play one of your sharpest, best games toward the end of the season. And if you’re going to lose, you want to lose going out throwing your best punches, not really feeling like you let one get away.”
Prep also inserted Marley Deschiney and Javy Atcitty into the starting lineup, in order to combat NMMI’s bigs in the paint. The duo was held scoreless in the first half, but NMMI didn’t fully rely on attacking the rim head-on.
The Colts hit some key shots slashing in from the outside corners of the wing, and NMMI still had multiple looks on putbacks.
“A lot of them were contested shots,” Melvin said.
As much as Prep (20-8) relishes the strides it made, and the fact players like Atcitty, Dontrelle Denetso and Isaiah Morris will return for Year 2 of the Melvin era, the Eagles were still struck by that sense of what could’ve been, right here and now.
Newcomb boys win 2A playoff opener
The Skyhawks crushed Mesilla Valley Christian 64-38 Saturday at NHS.
Newcomb will play in the 2A quarterfinals at 3 p.m. Wednesday in Rio Rancho.
Kirtland boys fall in 4A playoff opener
The Broncos lost 67-56 Saturday at Española Valley.
Kirtland (17-12) kept chipping away at multiple two and three-possession deficits, but couldn’t make that next big push.
Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 5055-564-4577 and on Twitter at @MattH_717.
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