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Local hoops teams come up big in regional tournament action

GALLUP − Opening round action on Thursday in the Gallup Boys Basketball Invitational saw victories for both Farmington High and Navajo Prep.

Meantime, both the boys and girls basketball teams from Bloomfield came out on top in opening round matches on Thursday of the Cuba Invitational.

Here's a recap of prep basketball action for local and area teams.

Boys Basketball

FARMINGTON 58, Sandia Prep 54 (OT)

After squandering a 17-point lead at the end of the first quarter, Farmington High managed to earn a first-round win of the Gallup Boys Basketball Invitational, beating Sandia Prep 58-54 in overtime.

Lander Willie's game-winning shot with 37 seconds remaining in overtime gave the Scorpions the win and a spot in the tournament's second round on Friday at 6 p.m. against Miyamura.

Playing without Cody Vassar-Steen and Michael Beck, the Scorpions came out firing in the first quarter of Thursday's contest, with Hayden Begay and Trel Griego leading the way. Farmington dominated the opening frame and led 19-2 after the first eight minutes.

The Sundevils fought back in the second quarter, outscoring Farmington 20-12 and sending the Scorpions into the locker room with a 31-22 lead.

"We sort of took the foot off the pedal in the second quarter a bit and (Sandia Prep) changed their defense just enough to get us off our game," said Farmington head coach Larry-Don Chitty.

The Sundevils rally continued into the second half, led by Alex Jeffries and Jaxon Tett. Sandia Prep forced several turnovers which allowed them to close the gap late in the fourth quarter, tying the game in the final seconds of regulation.

"Their press really started working because we stopped working," Chitty said after the game.

"In overtime, both teams came up with some big shots before Willie found himself open in the low post for the game winner in the final minute.

"We tried to call a few things but they all kind of broke down because of their defense, but we had guys making plays out there and that's what you're always looking for."

Vassar-Steen and Beck, who are two of the Scorpions leading scorers on the team, both missed Thursday's opening round game dealing with flu-like symptoms.

"We're hoping (Vassar-Steen) will be back with us Friday night, but (Beck) may miss the weekend," Chitty said.

Griego led the Scorpions with 24 points in the win, with Willie and Begay scoring 11 points each.

Farmington (8-5) will look to advance into the finals of the tournament when they face the Patriots, 59-48 winners of their opening round clash with Rehoboth Christian.

NAVAJO PREP 67, Grants 44

Three players scored in double figures Thursday afternoon as Navajo Prep rolled to a comfortable 67-44 win over Grants in the opening round of the Gallup Boys Basketball Invitational.

Orion King led the Eagles with 16 points, while Xavier Nez (14) and Jude Thomas (12) paced a relentless attack which took advantage of a sometimes over-aggressive Pirates defense. Navajo Prep sprinted out to an early 19-9 lead after the first quarter thanks to a pair of 3-point shots from Thomas and being able to move the ball down the floor.

"They (Grants) had some good moments with the press defense, but I kept reminding our guys that once you break through it, there's easy baskets at the other end," said Navajo Prep head coach Matt Melvin.

The Eagles (10-1) continued to exploit the Pirates defense in the second half. After going into the locker room with a 28-15 lead, Navajo Prep outscored Grants 39-29 in the second half to earn a spot in the second round of the tournament and a game Friday at 7:30 p.m. against the host Gallup Bengals. Gallup advanced into the second round on Thursday night, romping over Hatch Valley by a final of 66-16.

BLOOMFIELD 69, Springer 41

The Bloomfield High School boys basketball team rolled to a 69-41 win Thursday in the opening round of the Cuba Invitational Basketball Tournament, earning their second win in a row and sending the Bobcats into the second round of the tournament.

Bloomfield (6-4) was playing for the first time in nearly three weeks after winning on the road over Piedra Vista on Dec. 14, pulled clear in the second half of Thursday's game. The victory means the Bobcats will tangle with Cuba High's junior varsity squad, which knocked off Jemez Valley 76-57. The second round game is scheduled for Friday at 4 p.m.

Girls Basketball

BLOOMFIELD 51, Springer 30

Jumping out to a clear advantage after a 21-7 opening quarter, the Bloomfield High School girls basketball team rolled to victory Thursday in the opening round of the Cuba High Girls Invitational Basketball Tournament, running past Springer by a final of 51-30.

The Lady Bobcats (6-3) showed no signs of being off their game, despite a near two-week rest between games. They earned their second straight win and advance to the tournament's second round on Friday, when they will face off with Jemez Valley, who rolled to a 65-37 win over Cuba High's junior varsity team.

FARMINGTON 48, Tohatchi 28

Kamalani Anitielu and Kapiolani Anitelu scored a combined 36 points as Farmington High's girls basketball team earned their fourth consecutive win Thursday night, going on the road and knocking off Tohatchi by a score of 48-28.

The 12-1 Lady Scorpions, currently ranked second behind Hobbs in the most recent MaxPreps poll among Class 5A teams in the state of New Mexico, are coming off a resounding win earlier this week on the road over previously undefeated Kirtland Central.

"We played excellent defense tonight," said Lady Scorpions head coach Tom Adair. "We needed a couple of tough games like these. We just need to keep working hard and keep getting better with each game."

Kamalani scored 19 points in the win over the Lady Cougars, while Kapiolani scored 17 points. Farmington will be home Saturday at 2:30 p.m. to face Shiprock.