Scorpions rally for thrilling win in second round tournament game

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON − The Farmington High School boys basketball team turned in one of the most impressive performances of the new hoops season on Friday night, rallying from a double-digit deficit to beat Chaparral in the second round of the Marv Sanders Memorial Invitational Tournament at Scorpion Arena.

Meantime, Boulder Creek High School's boys team cruised to victory on Friday night, and advances to the tournament championship game and a showdown with the Scorpions.

The Sanders Invitational Tournament will wrap up Saturday with the championship game scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m.

Here's a recap of Friday's second round action.

Farmington 52, Chaparral 51

Cody Vassar Steen's game-winning shot in the final seconds of the fourth quarter lifted the Farmington Scorpions to an impressive, if not improbable, 52-51 win over Chaparral (Colo.) in Friday's second round clash at Scorpion Arena.

The Scorpions, who didn't score their first points of the game for more than four minutes and 30 seconds into the first quarter, trailed the Wolverines 12-0 midway through the opening frame. After a timeout, coach Larry-Don Chitty and the Scorpions made some defensive adjustments to prevent further damage being done by Chaparral's outside shooting game and inside rebounding advantage.

Farmington clawed their way back into the game, and rattled off a 16-point run of their own between the end of the first quarter and through much of the second quarter before going into the locker room with a narrow 19-16 advantage at the half.

Farmington's Cody Vassar-Steen drives in the paint and shoots a short jumper over Chaparral's Kai Forbert in the first quarter of a second round game of the Marv Sanders Memorial Invitational on Friday, December 16, 2022 at Scorpion Arena.

"I thought our guys were resilient starting off the way they did," said Chitty. "From that point on, it was just a fight to the finish."

Vassar-Steen, who led the Scorpions with 18 points on the night, scored the game winner in the final seconds of the contest and lifted the team into Saturday's tournament championship game against Boulder Creek (Ariz.) after the Jaguars rolled over Westlake (Utah) by a final of 67-54.

"(Vassar-Steen) was nearly unstoppable in the second half and they were throwing everything at him," Chitty said.

Landon Begay scored 11 points for Farmington, who now improve their overall record on the season to 4-1.

"All the guys for us played at a high level," Chitty said. "I thought both teams played well enough to win."

Boulder Creek 67, Westlake 54

The Boulder Creek (Ariz.) Jaguars led from start to finish Friday night in their second round clash with Westlake (Utah) High, registering a 67-54 win in the Sanders Invitational semifinals and advancing to Saturday's championship round.

Led by Rowan McKenzie's 16 points, with big performances turned in by Andrew Bhesania, who scored 14 points as well as Carson Gates, who scored 12 on the night, the Jaguars went into the locker room with a 30-23 lead before outscoring the Thunder 37-31 in the second half to seal the victory.

Boulder Creek's Andrew Bhesania drives the lane and heads to the basket around Westlake's Maverick McManus during a second round game of the Marv Sanders Memorial Invitational Tournament, Friday, Dec. 16, 2022 at Farmington High School's Scorpion Arena.

Boulder Creek, one of the top-ranked teams in Class 6A in the state of Arizona, improved their record to 6-1 on the current season. Last season, the Jaguars went 23-9 and advanced to the state semifinals in the postseason before being eliminated.

The Boulder Creek championship game with Farmington is set for 4:30 p.m. at the Scorpion Arena. Meantime, Westlake will face off with Chaparral in a consolation bracket contest that is scheduled to get underway at 3 p.m.

Gallup 57, Durango 39

Isaiah Tom led the Gallup High School boys basketball team with 21 points as they knocked off Durango by a final of 57-39 in Friday's second round game of the Sanders Invitational.

The Bengals led the game from start to finish, going into the locker room with a 27-18 advantage at halftime before outscoring the Demons 30-21 in the second half.

The victory vaults Gallup into a third round clash with Window Rock, scheduled to get underway at 1:30 p.m. The Demons, who lost each of their first two games of the tournament, will face Shiprock on Saturday at noon.

Window Rock 65, Shiprock 47

The Window Rock (Ariz.) Fighting Scouts earned their first win of the Sanders Invitational Tournament with a 65-47 victory over Shiprock in consolation round action Friday at Farmington High School's Scorpion Arena.

Window Rock, which lost their first round game on Thursday to the host Scorpion team, opened up on the Chieftains in the second half after leading the game 27-20 at the half. The Fighting Scouts outscored Shiprock 38-27 in the second half to earn the win.

Window Rock will advance to the third round on Saturday, and will face Gallup at 1:30 p.m.

Shiprock, which has now lost six straight games and have a record of 3-6 on the season, will face Durango on Saturday at noon.