FARMINGTON – All the parity seen in the District 2-5A girls basketball race took yet another crazy turn on Saturday afternoon.
La Cueva, languishing in fourth place in the district, kept itself in the hunt for a solid seed at the district tournament as the fourth-ranked Bears, with some key defensive stops, took down No. 7 Farmington 67-59 at Scorpion Arena.
The result turns 2-5A, the state’s most competitive girls league, into more of a free-for-all for the top spot, as four of the five squads – Piedra Vista, West Mesa, Farmington and La Cueva – are within two games of each other. This coming week, both Piedra Vista, on Tuesday, and Farmington, on Saturday, will be in Albuquerque to take on West Mesa. And the Scorpions and PV still have one more game against each other.
“It’s really exciting. Every night is a battle,” said La Cueva junior point guard Kaya Ingram, who scored 22 points. “One team’s beating another, and that team’s beating another. We’ve just got to come strong in these next few games to get our record up, and I think we’ll be good.”
La Cueva dropped three of its first four district games, including losses to Farmington, West Mesa and Piedra Vista. Earlier this week, the Scorpions beat Piedra Vista to create a three-way tie for first with West Mesa.
Then came Saturday.
“Every night is a battle in this district. It’s brutal,” La Cueva coach Robert Perea said. “We absolutely needed this game, for sure.”
La Cueva withstood penetration by Farmington in the opening minutes, disrupting the Scorpions’ ball movement when they slashed in coming from the outer wings.
After Farmington senior post Jordan Vasquez started battering them in the paint by the fourth quarter, the Lady Bears switched from their full-court, high-pressure man defense to a 2-3 zone to limit her touches.
“Every time they got the ball to her, it was either a foul or it was two points,” Perea said.
That paid dividends, as Vasquez, who had 22 points, scored just four points in the fourth quarter.
La Cueva soon forced contested shots and snagged some key defensive boards, which helped it generate much-needed possessions down the stretch.
Farmington (19-5, 3-2) had multiple chances to strike when it became a one-possession game in the second half. But the Scorpions were unable to hit key shots, either from long range or in close.
“It is very frustrating because you know you should’ve won this game. It’s very frustrating to see those little baskets just roll in and out,” Farmington coach Larenson Henderson said.
La Cueva was quick to jump up and rebound the ball, and it also swatted at quick passes zinging through the middle.
Even when in foul trouble, La Cueva (17-4, 2-3) stayed the course and kept getting stops – and kept its faint district title hopes alive.
LA CUEVA 81, FARMINGTON 60: At La Cueva, a second quarter in which the Scorpions (11-12, 0-5 in 5-5A) were held scoreless helped keep the Bears (13-8, 5-0) unbeaten in league play.
Junior guard Derek Aeilts had 26 points to pace La Cueva, which faces a crucial road game Friday night at second-place Eldorado (15-5, 4-1), which routed Piedra Vista 77-49 on Saturday.
Journal Staff Writer James Yodice contributed to this story.