Local basketball teams turn attention towards district schedule
FARMINGTON − The run to the state basketball tournaments enters a crucial phase for area and local teams in the coming days with the onset of district matchups.
Here's a glance at where those teams are at the midway portion of the season and what to expect in the coming weeks.
The road to the state tournament for Farmington High School will once again be determined by how well the Scorpions handle their business against District 2-5A competition.
The Scorpions were 15-3 entering the district portion of their schedule last year. They proceeded to lose six out of 10 games in district before being knocked out of the district tournament by Eldorado, with Hobbs then ending their season in the first round of the Class 5A state tournament.
This season, Farmington comes into the final days of the non-district schedule on a roll, having won the Gallup Invitational and in the middle of a five-game win streak. Ranked 16th according to the most recent MaxPreps poll, the Scorpions have the fourth-best overall record in the district, behind Sandia, West Mesa and La Cueva.
Piedra Vista enters the final days of their non-district schedule with an overall record of 1-14 and mired in a seven-game losing streak.
The competition appears to be spread out quite evenly in District 1-4A, with Bloomfield, Gallup and Kirtland Central all within two games of each other entering the final week of the non-district season.
Gallup was knocked off by Farmington in the finals of their own tournament last weekend, while Bloomfield captured the championship in the Cuba Invitational. Kirtland Central has won three of their last four games and has improved greatly on defense of late.
"I've been real happy with our team defense," said head coach Brian Dowdy after their blowout victory last Friday night over Piedra Vista.
Kirtland Central is coming off a resounding win earlier this week at home over Espanola Valley as they prepare for their district campaign.
"The key now is consistency," Dowdy said. "If we can continue to get better at our offense and keep up with the defense, I think we can make a strong run."
Bloomfield, with a record of 8-4 heading into the district season, appears to be going in the right direction, coming off three runaway victories against tournament competition in the Cuba Invitational.
"Those were some really important games, because we hadn't played a lot since the winter break heading into that tournament," said Bobcats head coach Dominique Richardson. "Those three games gave those kids some confidence at the right time."
Richardson, who took over the head coaching duties this past offseason, believes the competition in District 1-4A could make it possible for as multiple teams to gain a berth in the Class 4A state tournament, which gets underway in early March.
"On any given night, if we don't come out and play, we let someone else in," said Richardson. "It's so wide open that we have to make a point within the district or else we could be one of those districts with three teams to make state."
Gallup is currently the highest ranked team in the district, coming in as the tenth-ranked team in Class 4A, just ahead of Kirtland Central (12th) and Bloomfield (15th).
The Shiprock Chieftains, with a record of 3-9 heading into the final days of the non-district season, have been hit hard by injuries, but may still cause some waves as they return to a healthier roster with the start of the district stretch.
The Navajo Prep Eagles, winners of four straight district titles, are still looking to advance deeper into the state tournament. They were eliminated in the first round of last year's Class 3A tournament in a heartbreaking loss to St. Michael's.
"I think we've just now found our stride, but we're a long way from being where we can be," said head coach Matt Melvin.
The Eagles opened their district schedule earlier this week with a blowout win on the road over Tohatchi. After a game at home Thursday night against Thoreau, they'll continue their district schedule at home Tuesday night at home against Zuni.
Farmington came into the final week of the non-district schedule as the third-ranked Class 5A team in the state and a record of 14-1. Their only blemish on the season was a loss in tournament play last month against second-ranked Volcano Vista.
"Our team is on a good roll right now," said Farmington head coach Tom Adair. "They're playing great defense and really good team ball."
The Lady Scorpions are in one of the most competitive districts in the state at the 5A classification. Sandia has a record of 11-2 this season, led by Sydney Benally, Audri Wright and Hope Giddings, averaging a combined nearly 52 points per game.
Eldorado, with a record of 5-6 this season, are led by Bella Hines, averaging more than 28 points a night while West Mesa's Cece Thrasher and Destiny Jackson are combining for more than 26 points per game this season.
"Nothing is going to come easy this district season, that's for sure," Adair said. "But I've been very happy with what the girls have done and the awareness they have that there's a lot more work to do."
Piedra Vista, with a record of 6-10 this season, cannot be overlooked as a spoiler for any team in the race for district supremacy.
The top two teams in the 4A classification, Kirtland Central and Gallup, will have their first clash later this month at Gallup High School, but have been on a collision course for much of the season.
The Lady Broncos, with a record of 14-1 are looking to defend their Class 4A state title, while the Lady Bengals, with a record of 10-3, have outscored their opponents by an average margin of 15 points per game.
Meantime, not to be overlooked at all are the Bloomfield Lady Bobcats. With a non-district record of 8-4 and led by Danielle Johnson and Aliya Quintana, are coming off a tournament championship last week at the Cuba Invitational. Currently ranked sixth in Class 4A, Bloomfield will more than likely provide a few challenges for the top two teams in the district.
Aztec (5-10) and Shiprock (4-9) will have their work cut out for them as the district campaign opens next week.
Navajo Prep opened their District 1-3A schedule earlier this week with a 49-36 win on the road over Zuni. With a record of 9-3 this season, the Lady Eagles only losses on the season have come to top-ranked Class 5A teams like Hobbs and Farmington, as well as a loss to Class 4A top-ranked Kirtland Central.
Thoreau, with a record of 10-3 on the season, have won seven straight games and are led by Leah Delgarito and her 18 points per game average. The Lady Hawks, along with Crownpoint and Tohatchi, appear to be the teams most likely to challenge the Lady Eagles bid for their third district title in the last four seasons.