Scorpions advance to second round of Sanders Invite

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON − After a sloppy first half of play, the Farmington High School boys basketball team rounded into form and rolled to an impressive first-round victory in the Marv Sanders Memorial Invitational over Window Rock in front of a large crowd Thursday night at Farmington High's Scorpion Arena.

Meantime, prep teams from Arizona, Colorado and Utah also moved on into the winners bracket after strong showings in the opening day of action. Here's a recap of all the opening day games from tournament action.

Westlake 51, Gallup 33

The Westlake (Utah) Thunder pulled clear in the second half, outscoring Gallup 39-25 in the final two periods on their way to a 51-33 win Thursday in the first round of the Sanders Invitational Tournament.

Both teams struggled to convert from the floor in the first half, with the Thunder heading into the locker room with a slim 12-8 margin at the end of the first half. Both teams were able to get their offenses rolling a bit more in the second half, but Westlake opened up down the stretch to preserve the victory.

Westlake moves on to the second round and a highly anticipated matchup against Boulder Creek (Arizona). Tipoff for that championship bracket game is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

Boulder Creek 77, Durango 32

The Boulder Creek (Arizona) Jaguars jumped out in front early, led by Carson Bates and Andrew Bhesania, who combined for 24 points in the first half on their way to a 77-32 win in Thursday afternoon's opening game of the tournament.

Durango was unable to overcome the size and speed advantage of the Jaguars, who went into the locker room with a 53-17 lead. Gates led the Jaguars with 18 points in the win, with Bhesania and Rowan McKenzie each scoring 15 points.

"We're blessed to have some really talented playmakers who can change the dimensions of a game in a hurry," Boulder Creek head coach Justin Collard said. "The kids really stepped up for us in this spot."

Boulder Creek's Rowan McKenzie eludes Durango's Tyler Harms and drives to the lane during the second quarter of a first round game of the Marv Sanders Memorial Invitational Tournament on Thursday at Farmington High School's Scorpion Arena.

The Jaguars face off with Westlake (Utah) in the second round of the championship bracket at 5:30 p.m. Friday.

Meantime, Durango will be in action Friday afternoon in a consolation round clash with Gallup. Tipoff for that game is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Farmington 65, Window Rock 43

The Farmington High School boys basketball team took a little time to find their offensive rhythm Thursday night in their first round game against Window Rock.

After a slow start for both teams, the Scorpions proved their mettle, running past the Fighting Scouts in the second half on their way to a 65-43 win and a second round championship bracket game Friday night against Chaparral (Colorado) High School.

The Scorpions (3-1) were led by Trel Griego, who scored 17 points, and Cody Vassar-Steen, who scored 16 in the victory.

Still, head coach Larry-Don Chitty knows this team will need to do better if they hope to play for the tournament championship on Saturday night.

"We were careless and sloppy in the first half, and I thought maybe we were a bit over-confident," said Chitty after the game. "In the second half, we were as good as we were horrible in the first half. What we did will not be enough against a really solid team tonight."

Tipoff for the Scorpions game against the Wolverines is scheduled for 7 p.m. with the winner set to face the winner of the Westlake vs. Boulder Creek matchup for the tournament title.

Chaparral 72, Shiprock 26

Chaparral's Trey Thomason (30) lines up for a successful 3-point shot over the outstretched arms of Shiprock's Nevaughn Begay during the first quarter of a first round game of the Marv Sanders Memorial Invitational Tournament, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022 at Farmington High School's Scorpion Arena.

The Chaparral (Colorado) High School Wolverines wasted little time showing off their speed and size as they rolled over Shiprock by a final of 72-26 in continuing action of Thursday's first round of the Sanders Invitational Tournament.

The Wolverines got big performances in the first half by Gavin Carter, as well as Trey Thomason and Ben Morris as they took advantage of Shiprock's offensive woes, rolling to a 23-8 lead at the end of the first quarter and a 46-18 advantage at the break.

Chaparral will face off with Farmington in the Thursday nightcap in the championship round bracket, with tipoff scheduled for 7 p.m.

Meantime, Shiprock will hope to bounce back when they take on Window Rock in the consolation round of the tournament bracket. That contest will be the opening game on Friday's schedule with a 1:30 p.m. tipoff.

Check back at for tournament updates.