BASKETBALL

Aztec High hosts Rumble in the Jungle basketball tournaments this week

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

AZTEC − Teams from across New Mexico and from as far away as Arizona and Texas are set to take part this week in boys and girls basketball tournaments at the Lillywhite Gym at Aztec High School.

The Rumble in the Jungle tournaments get underway on Wednesday at 9 a.m. with eight games on tap. The Aztec High School boys and girls teams will be joined by both the boys and girls teams from Wingate and Newcomb High Schools, while both the boys and girls squads from St. Michael's, Valley and Rock Point High Schools in Arizona are also scheduled to compete in the tournament, which will run through Friday night.

The tournament, which has evolved a bit in recent years due to scheduling changes and the effects of the pandemic, appears to have one of the strongest groups of teams in quite some time.

"We had a goal several years ago to make a Four Corners tournament and we were pretty well represented from across the area," said Aztec High School athletic director Bryan Sanders. "We shifted dates because of the holidays and then COVID hit, so the tournament declined. I'm very pleased to have a full tournament again with all the quality teams."

In addition, the Bel Air (Texas) High School boys basketball team are traveling to the tournament as well. The Highlanders, from El Paso, come to Aztec with a record of 10-4 on the season, which includes a tournament win last month over Montwood (Texas) as well as a victory in tournament play earlier this month over Gadsden High School.

The Highlanders will play their first game of the tournament against Laguna-Acoma on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. The Hawks (3-5) are hoping to end a two-game losing streak.

Bel Air's K.J. Ware jumps for a shot. Bel Air defeated Austin High School 60-55 to win the 5A boys bi-district championship at Bel Air High School on Feb. 19, 2021.

Aztec's boys basketball team will open the tournament Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. against the Rock Point Hawks. With a three-game win streak and a record of 10-2 to start the season, Rock Point is led by junior Zyon Tsosie, averaging more than 19 points per game.

The Tigers (1-9) have lost three in a row, including a tough loss last week at home against Bayfield.

"We had an 11-point lead at the half and led by seven in the fourth quarter, but we got cold and let them climb back into the game," said Aztec head coach Ryan Dee. "We're almost there at a point where we can consistently finish."

The Newcomb High School boys basketball team will face off against St. Michael (Ariz.) on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. The Skyhawks have lost two in a row after winning three straight earlier this month, including a 71-58 win on the road over Aztec on Dec. 13. Newcomb owns two wins this season over Aztec, but also lost at home earlier this month in a non-district game against Bloomfield.

In the girls tournament, the Lady Tigers will be in action on Wednesday at 6 p.m. when they face Wingate. The Lady Bears have a record of 4-4 on the season and have lost two of their last three games. Aztec, with a record of 2-7, are led by seniors McKenzie Klinger and Brooke Calvert, each averaging more than six points per game. Freshman Jazzlyn Gomez has impressed as well, averaging more than seven points per game this season.

The Newcomb High School Lady Skyhawks will be looking to get back in the win column following a 28-point loss at home last week against Bloomfield. Newcomb has a record of 3-4 this season and will tip off their tournament run against St. Michael (Ariz.) High School.

The Lady Cardinals have a record of 3-6 and most recently lost at home to undefeated San Carlos by a final of 75-49.

For more information on the Rumble in the Jungle basketball tournaments, check out the Aztec High School athletic department's Facebook page.