Sandia’s super sophomores carried the day at a most important juncture of the Matadors’ girls basketball season.
There is, of course, Sydney Benally, whose 32 points were more than half of the Matadors’ total in a vital home District 2-5A showdown against Farmington.
But there was also Audri Wright, whose contributions were invaluable and irreplaceable — both in regulation and in overtime — as Class 5A’s No. 5-ranked Sandia overcame No. 2 Farmington 63-56 in overtime on Saturday.
Wright had 10 of her 15 points in the final two minutes of regulation and in overtime, and the Matadors (17-5, 4-2) kept themselves in the hunt for the 2-5A title by knocking off the first-place Scorpions (20-2, 5-1).
“I just really wanted it,” said the 5-foot-9 Wright. “And we wanted that win really bad. We knew it was very important. I had to play my heart out. We all had to play our hearts out.”
Sandia overcame a lot just to get to OT.
Farmington led 48-43 with under 2½ minutes to go, but the Matadors pulled even on two free throws by Benally and then, after a Farmington turnover, a corner 3-pointer by Wright.
“She’s capable of that every game,” Sandia coach Lee Kettig said. “She’s one of the most multi-talented players in the state.”
Later, the Scorpions led 54-50 with under 20 seconds to go. But Wright hit a shot off the glass to cut the margin to two. Following a missed free throw by the Scorpions, Sandia got it back, and Benally made a spin move before dropping in an 8-foot jumper to tie the game at 54 with 6 seconds left in regulation.
“We’ve played (a lot of) great teams; we’ve won some and we’ve lost some,” Kettig said, “but what we’ve learned is … that we can play with anybody.”
Said Benally, “We had to show a lot of fight, especially when the momentum was going their way. We had to stay together as a team, even through the rough obstacles that came our way.”
As much as anything that impacted the outcome, it was Sandia’s defense against Farmington’s two leading scorers, sisters Kamalani Anitielu, a senior, and junior Kapiolani Anitielu. Those two average almost 33 combined points, but on Saturday were limited to 13, including just four points for Kapiolani, who averages a team-leading 18.4 points.
Farmington still controls its fate in 2-5A. La Cueva also is 5-1 in league play, but the Scorpions beat the Bears once already. Farmington is at West Mesa on Tuesday, then closes the regular season with three home games, including another matchup versus La Cueva. The Matadors visit the Bears on Friday.
Kjani Anitielu led Farmington with 19 points, but fouled out with 3:42 left in the fourth quarter.
SANDIA 63, FARMINGTON 56 (OT)
FARMINGTON (20-2, 5-1 in 2-5A): Naveah Curley 2, Kamalani Anitielu 9, Tinaya Parrish 15, Kapiolani Anitielu 4, Kaitlyn John 3, Kjani Anitielu 19, Maleah Charlie 4. Totals 19 14-18 56.
SANDIA (17-5, 4-2): Amari Sanderson 2, Malia Meadowcroft 2, Hope Giddings 8, Audri Wright 15, Martina Sando 4, Sydney Benally 32. Totals 21 17-24 63.
Farmington 11 11 11 21 2 — 56
Sandia 12 15 10 17 9 — 63
3-point goals: F 4 (Kjani Anitielu 2, Parrish, John); S 4 (Wright 2, Benally 2). Total fouls: F 17; S 17. Fouled out: F, Kjani Anitielu.