KIRTLAND — On paper, it appeared Piedra Vista would have a big advantage in the paint Tuesday night at Kirtland Central.
Andrea Marris made sure that wouldn't be the case.
Marris stepped up with five points for the defending 4A state champion Lady Broncos, but more important were her numerous rebounds and five blocked shots as she shut down PV star Kaleigh Graham.
Kirtland Central (7-15, 2-0 DIstrict 1-4A) played superb defense all across the floor, holding the Lady Panthers (10-12, 1-1) to just nine second-half points in a 37-26 win.
The win kept Kirtland Central undefeated in district, and the Lady Broncos took control of their own destiny in the district.
“My teammates and I want to get that district championship. We started slow this year, but we are doing good,” Marris said. “It was a total team effort tonight. I got blocks, but my teammates were there to pick them up.”
Graham was held to just six points in the loss while no Lady Panther scored in double digits.
“If they were going to beat us, it was going to be from behind the arch,” said Kirtland Central head coach Kevin Holman. “We got it done. Graham is a tough girl in there. Marris did a great job on her, but all the girls did. Graham didn't get many free looks.”
Piedra Vista's only lead came at 3-2. Kirtland Central built a double-digit lead out of halftime and did enough in the fourth quarter to hold off any PV comeback attempt.
“Kirtland took the game. They wanted it. They got every loose ball and controlled the boards,” said PV head coach Mike Christie. “Their big girl controlled the paint, and they just flat wanted it. They protected the paint well, and we didn't shoot too well. Hitting only four 3s is going to cut it.”
PV shot just 10-for-38 from the field to Kirtland Central's 18-of-29.
“We were really pumped up from the beginning until the end. PV is a good team, so getting that win was exciting,” Marris said.
Christie said his team showed signs of its immaturity at times Tuesday.
“We are young, and young teams have games like this, I just didn't think it would be tonight because we were prepared,” Christie said. “We had no aggression driving to the basket. We got hit with a few charges early and got gun shy. We only shot three free throws in the game, and that says you have to be a more aggressive team.”
The Lady Broncos have had a rough season outside of district, but Holman has been rewarded with a group of girls he said has never quit on him.
“At 7-15 right now, this is uncharted territory for Kirtland Central. Wins and losses are always huge in my book. I've been doing this for over 20 years, but when the girls don't quit on you and keep coming to practice and working hard every day, they can say whatever they want anywhere, but these girls haven't quit,” Holman said. “They are awesome young ladies and it is an honor to coach them.”
Kirtland Central will face Aztec on Friday in another big game.
“This win doesn't do us any good if we go to Aztec and get beat,” Holman said. “We want to be undefeated in district when we play PV again. To repeat, we have to win this district. We are 2-0 right now, and have to take care of business the rest of the way.”
PV will host Farmington High in what Christie hopes will be a bounce-back game.
“The good thing about basketball is we can play again Friday and try to shake it off,” he said. “We have to take care of business and win a couple of games and get back to host Kirtland.”