Boulder Creek rolls past Farmington in Sanders Invite championship game

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON − The Boulder Creek (Arizona) High School boys basketball team jumped out to an early lead and never looked back in a 64-36 rout over Farmington High School in the championship game of the Marv Sanders Memorial Invitational Tournament on Saturday night at Scorpion Arena.

Led by Rowan McKenzie's 19 points, which included four 3-point shots, the Jaguars used their speed and size advantage to turn rebounds into quick transition points. Farmington's offensive woes, particularly in the second and third quarters of the game, turned into multiple scoring opportunities for the Jaguars, who rolled over their competition during the tournament.

"They were simply better tonight," said Farmington head coach Larry-Don Chitty. "They had so many weapons and I think they really just wore us down."

Boulder Creek's road to the finals started on Thursday with a 77-32 win over Durango, followed by a 67-54 win on Friday night over the Westlake (Utah) Thunder. Farmington advanced to the championship game with a 65-43 win over Window Rock on Thursday night, followed by a dramatic, last-second 52-51 win on Friday night over Chaparral (Colo.) High School.

"Overall, I thought our guys had a really outstanding tournament," Chitty said. "We saw some areas where we need to improve if we have any intention of playing at that level."

Boulder Creek's John Zellers gets a layup attempt past the outstretched hand of Farmington's Michael Beck during the third quarter of the championship game in the Marv Sanders Memorial Invitational Tournament, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022 at Scorpion Arena.

Cody Vassar-Steen led the Scorpions with 19 points and was named to the all-tournament team.

Andrew Bhesania, who scored 13 points in the championship game, was named the tournament's most valuable player. He scored 47 points in the three tournament games over the weekend. Also making the all-tournament team were Boulder Creek's Carson Gates, as well as Chaparral's Brayden Munroe, Westlake's Joran Kroll and Gallup's Bret Baker.

Boulder Creek heads back to Arizona with a record of 7-1, while the loss drops Farmington's record on the season to 4-2. With the tournament wrapped up, Farmington's regular season will resume on Tuesday when they travel to Bernalillo before a second road trip next week when they face Monument Valley, Ariz. on Thursday.

Farmington's Cody Vassar-Steen drives around Boulder Creek's Andrew Bhesania (5) and attempts a shot under the basket in the fourth quarter of the Marv Sanders Memorial Invitational championship game on Saturday, December 17, 2022 at Scorpion Arena.

Here's a recap of the rest of the Saturday afternoon action from Scorpion Arena.

Durango 59, Shiprock 53

The Durango Demons managed to earn one victory this weekend in the Sanders Invitational, slipping past Shiprock 59-53 on Saturday to earn seventh place in the tournament.

The Demons lost both of their first two games, starting with a blowout loss to eventual Boulder Creek by a final of 77-32 on Thursday, followed by a 57-39 defeat at the hands of Gallup on Friday night.

Durango falls to 2-6 on the season after the tournament, and will look to turn around their early season struggles when they visit Pagosa Springs on Wednesday night.

The Chieftains have lost each of their last seven games, falling to 3-7 in the standings and will hope to get back on track on Thursday night when they visit Grants.

Gallup 62, Window Rock 34

The Gallup High School boys basketball team pulled clear in the second half, outscoring Window Rock by a margin of 30-11 in the final two quarters on their way to a 62-34 win in consolation round action of the Sanders Invitational.

Prior to the start of the game, Gallup sophomore Kristian Touchine won the tournament's slam dunk contest.

Gallup finishes the Sanders Invitational with two wins and one loss after dropping their opening game Thursday night against the Westlake Thunder. The Bengals exit the tournament with a record of 5-4 and will get a short rest before returning to action at home on Wednesday, Dec. 28 against Taos.

Window Rock, which lost the opening game of the tournament on Thursday to Farmington, came back with a convincing 65-47 win on Friday over Shiprock. The Fighting Scouts (2-4) will return to action on Tuesday when they visit Monument Valley.

Westlake 79, Chaparral 65

The Westlake (Utah) High School boys basketball team rebounded nicely from their only loss of the tournament, coming away with a convincing 79-65 win in the third-place game Saturday afternoon.

Westlake won their opening game on Thursday, beating Gallup by a final of 51-33, but came up short in Friday's second round match against eventual champion Boulder Creek by a score of 67-54.

The Thunder head back home with a record of 8-2, ranked as one of the top Class 6A teams in the state of Utah.

Chaparral, which posted a win 75-26 Thursday night over Shiprock before losing in the final seconds of the second round to Farmington, leave the tournament with a record of 3-5.