On the final night before the implementation of the Albuquerque Public Schools’ at least two-week fan ban, Farmington remained one of two undefeated teams in Class 5A girls basketball with a 75-47 win in a District 2-5A opener Tuesday night in Sandia.
Beginning Wednesday and through February 2, no fans will be allowed into the 13 APS high school gyms for basketball or wrestling.
And unsurprisingly, APS’s decision didn’t go down well.
“It’s stupid. My opinion is that it’s stupid,” said Valley coed Grace Mestas, who stood in the stands to watch friends play for Sandia. “Everybody’s going to get it in the end anyway, so I’m just guessing that they should allow it.”
Farmington has no such restrictions and Scorpions coach Larenson Henderson said he would rather play in front of opposing fans than in an empty gym.
“It’s terrible,” he said. “We don’t like that. Last year when the pandemic was here we played Eldorado at their gym and it was a great different feeling for us. It felt more like a game of scrimmage. There really wasn’t any momentum. Not an exciting environment to play in. Girls thrive in it.”
One of Farmington’s most entertaining games came in front of a full house at Hobbs, Henderson said.
“We went to Hobbs and we had a lot of opposing fans over there and getting our ‘W’ there was a great win for us,” he said. “I said to the girls, ‘Energy is energy. If it is bad or good, take it and use it.”
While it’s disappointing not to have fans, Matadors coach Lee Kettig said it’s not something he’ll lose sleep over.
“It adds another layer that a manager has to figure out how to do live streaming or whatever we’re doing, so it just becomes a different thing for us at a time when the things we have to do.” , have increased a lot,” he said. “It’s fun being in a band. It’s fun to have fans. But honestly, sometimes when there’s no one around, the pressure is less. So I can’t say it’s going to kill us in terms of atmosphere.”
But Kettig said there was concern it could be a signal the worst was yet to come.
“I just hope we don’t go backwards,” he said. “I truly believe that these after-school activities are vital for our children in our community. And that shouldn’t be something that is set aside. It’s extremely important. When the school is open, extracurricular activities should take place. And hopefully we can maybe get to the point where the kids can have at least three or four family members in the stands, rather than a blanket rule that nobody can come.”
Sandia mother Nick Loftis pointed to precisely this reasoning as a better alternative than an outright ban.
“I think there are responsible alternatives to just banning all fans,” he said. “It’s just weird to me that you can go into the pit at the weekend and have 10,000 people in the pit and still come to an APS facility and not let anyone in? It just seems ridiculous to me.”
Game-wise, the home Matadors (11-4) battled a fast-paced Scorpions roster. Farmington (17-0) quickly turned a 31-24 lead into a 49-33 lead midway through the third quarter.
Kiiyani Anitielu finished the tournament with 26 points, Kamalani Anitielu had five 3-pointers and scored 21 points, and Audrey Henderson added 17 for the Scorpions. Mariah Maes had four 3-pointers in the first half, ending with 16 points for Sandia.