Girls Basketball: Sandia falls before APS fan ban begins - Albuquerque Journal

Girls Basketball: Sandia falls before APS fan ban begins

On the final evening before the Albuquerque Public Schools’ minimum two-week fan ban is implemented, Farmington remained one of two undefeated teams in Class 5A girls basketball with a 75-47 win in a District 2-5A opener at Sandia on Tuesday night.

Starting Wednesday, and continuing through Feb. 2, no fans will be permitted at any of APS’ 13 high school gyms for basketball or wrestling.

And not surprisingly, APS’ decision did not go over well.

“That’s stupid. My opinion is that it’s dumb,” said Valley sophomore Grace Mestas, who was in the stands to watch friends play for Sandia. “Everybody is going to end up getting it anyways so I just think that they should let it happen.”

Farmington faces no such restrictions and Scorpions coach Larenson Henderson said he prefers playing in front of opposing fans than in an empty gym.

“It’s terrible,” he said. “We don’t like it. Last year when the pandemic was here, we played Eldorado in their gym and it was a big, different feel for us. It felt more like a scrimmage game. There really was no momentum. No exciting environment to play in. The girls thrive on that.”

One of Farmington’s most entertaining games was in front of a packed house in Hobbs, Henderson said.

“We went to Hobbs and had a lot of opposing fans over there and to get our ‘W’ there was a great win for us,” he said. “I told the girls, ‘Energy is energy. If it’s bad or good, take it and use it.'”

Although not having fans is disappointing, Matadors coach Lee Kettig said, it’s not something he’s going to lose sleep over.

“It adds another layer of having a manager figure out how to live stream or whatever we’re doing so it just becomes another thing for us to do in an era when the things we have to do have expanded wildly,” he said. “It’s fun to have a band. It’s fun to have fans. But honestly, sometimes, when no one is there, there is less pressure. So I can’t say it’s going to kill us as far as atmosphere is concerned.”

However, Kettig said there is concern that this could be a signal that the worse is yet to come.

“I just hope we’re not going backwards,” he said. “I feel very strongly these extracurriculars are vital for our kids in our community. And that shouldn’t be something that is sort of put to the side. It’s extremely important. If school is open, extracurriculars should go on. And hopefully, maybe we can come to the point where the kids can at least have three or four family members in the stands instead of a blanket rule that nobody can come.”

Sandia parent Nick Loftis pointed to exactly that reasoning as a better alternative than a complete ban.

“I think there are responsible alternatives to just banning all the fans,” he said. “It’s just odd to me that you can go to the Pit on the weekend and you have 10,000 people in the Pit and yet you come to an APS facility and you can’t have anybody in? It just seems ridiculous to me.”

As for the game, the host Matadors (11-4) struggled against a quick Scorpions squad. Farmington (17-0) quickly turned a 31-24 lead into a 49-33 advantage midway through the third quarter.

Kiiyani Anitielu finished with 26 points, Kamalani Anitielu had five 3-pointers while scoring 21 and Audrey Henderson added 17 for the Scorpions. Mariah Maes had four first-half 3-pointers and finished with 16 points for Sandia.

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