Peter Dindinger – NMMI Sports Press
FARMINGTON Riding a 13-game winning streak heading into their first-round Class 3A playoff game, the Navajo Prep Eagles had a lot of confidence at home Saturday afternoon.
The New Mexico Military Institute Colts had other plans in store.
For the first time since the 2006-2007 season, the Colts were able to advance to the quarterfinals with a 54-40 win over the Eagles.
NMMI (15-8) takes on No. 2 Hot Springs at 4:45 p.m. Wednesday in the Santa Ana Star Center.
“It feels great. I was so nervous for this game,” said NMMI head coach Connor Williamson. “We knew it was going to be a tough game, but I also knew if our guys showed up they could get it done.
“That’s exactly what they did. We had a great week of practice. So, they were ready to play. They did what they had to do and it was a great game for us.”
The Colts were tied with the Eagles 6-6 with 3:25 in the opening quarter until Clay Stroh gave NMMI a two-point lead after making two free throws.
That gave NMMI a lot of momentum on offense as they finished off the quarter on a 7-0 run to lead 13-6.
Hector Soto faked a pass and cashed in on a layup with 5:08 in the second quarter to extend NMMI’s lead to nine points.
Navajo Prep (20-8) matched the Colts, 16-16, in the second frame to trail 29-22 at the break.
With a raucous crowd on hand, NMMI didn’t let the hostile environment phase its mindset despite being outscored 10-7 in the third quarter.
Holding on to a four-point lead entering the final quarter, the Colts resorted to playing stall ball to slow down the Eagles’ offense.
Stifled and frustrated, Navajo Prep was outscored 18-8 in the final stanza.
Two of Navaio Prep’s leading scorers fouled out of the game in the second half as Isaiah Morris and Lance Morris each tallied eight points.
It was a well distributed game for the Colts on offense as three player’s recorded double-digit scoring figures.
Ricardo Mata led NMMI with 17 points while Daniel Xibille had 14. Hector Soto chipped in with 11 points.
NMMI had three shots landed from beyond the arc while they shot 21 of 30 from the charity stripe.
Other top scorers for the Eagles included Dontrelle Denetso and Javy Attcity who each had six points apiece.
Navajo Prep shot 8 for 11 from the free throw line while landing two 3-pointers.
“It feels good because last year we were winning the first quarter and in the second half we lost,” Mata said. “So, that was the goal for this game to keep it up in the second half because that’s what always happens to us … we lose in the second half.
“We kept it up with defense. We encouraged each other. We’re feeling good passing, shooting. We had a good connection today.”
NMMI will get a second chance at trying to defeat Hot Springs, which beat the Colts by two points back on Dec. 6.
The key for NMMI will be continuing to execute on offense by having faith in one another.
“All five of our starters can score the ball off of drives and off of shooting,” Williamson said. “So, we just moved the ball and trust each other. We’ll get good looks. We just kind of wanted to spread it out and try to run some clock. They executed well."