After a run to the semifinals in last season's state tournament, Kirtland Central is looking for a return to The Pit this year.

The Broncos have a lot of work ahead with seven seniors to replace, but one face will remain the same.

Junior center Christian Mackey will man the paint for Kirtland, and Broncos' head coach John Zecca will rely heavily on him to carry a young team.

"We got our main player back with Christian Mackey but, other than him, we're young and inexperienced at the varsity level," Zecca said.

Mackey led the Broncos last year in scoring and rebounding, but will need contributions from his teammates for Kirtland to make runs at the district and state titles.

Zecca is looking for senior Jerrod Noble and junior Wilbert Smith, who stepped up big in the state tournament a year ago, to help the Broncos throughout the season.

"With Noble, I'm looking for him to be a big factor with his athleticism, especially defensively," Zecca said. "I took Smith to state with us last year. He shoots the outside shot well."

Kirtland began its season last Tuesday with a 48-25 win over Los Alamos, with the Broncos using a 20-1 run in the fourth quarter to finish off a pesky Hilltoppers squad.

Zecca's knows his team will have to get better after the opening victory.

"Defensively, we need to improve," he said. "We have got to get better in the beginning part of the season."

Zecca is stressing improvement in his team early in the season, knowing that a fight for the district title awaits in February.

"It's going to be tough. The district has been competitive the last few years," he said. "PV has a lot of returners, Aztec has impressed me, and Farmington is always tough."

The Broncos have set their goals high coming off a great season and expect nothing short of a repeat performance in the district and state tournament.

"District is the first goal, then getting back to The Pit," Zecca said.

Farmington

Head Coach: Paul Corley, 1st year.

Last Season: 15-12, 2nd in District 1-4A, eliminated in the first round of the state tournament.

Key Returners: Matt Huffines, Ethan Graff and Josh Miller-Castillo.

New Additions: Brad Betz, Roken Cody, Damon Shorty.

Season Outlook: "I'm still trying to get my feet wet with the boys' group after being an assistant for the girls' team last year. We have great team camaraderie and a good group of seniors. I'm expecting leadership from our point guard Huffines. He's going to be the heartbeat of our team. Graff will be a key post player for us, and I'm looking for him to be a leader as well. Right now, we're still in the beginning stages. The biggest challenge this year will be getting our kids ready to win basketball games. I think we have some great kids that will work hard and represent the school of Farmington well. Ultimately our goal is to get to The Pit. We'll take some lumps early, but we want to be district champs." — Corley.

Piedra Vista

Head Coach: Adam Huff, 1st year.

Last Season: 17-14, 3rd in District 1-4A, Eliminated in the first round of the state tournament.

Key returners: Jacob Armijo, Isaiah Valdez, Ty Jaquez, Satchel Baker.

New Additions: Shanahan Wilson.

Season Outlook: "I think this team's potential is through the roof. When I get them into the system, I think we can make a run at the final four and win the district. Going in, I asked the guys where they think we should finish, and they all said they should win this district. They don't see why they shouldn't compete for the title. We're going to play at a fast pace. We're going to get up and down the floor. Offensively, I want us to average 70 points per game. Defensively, we're going to press at all levels of the court and try to create turnovers." — Huff.

Aztec

Head Coach: Jody Christman, 3rd year.

Last Season: 8-19, 4th in District 1-4A.

Key Returners: Jaime Lopez, Troy Choman, Conner Gaskins, Wyatt Schlueter, Ryneal Lewis-Adams.

New Additions: Eli King, Dylan Stinson.

Season outlook: "It's pretty hard to get a handle at where everybody is at this early. I've only seen Kirtland so far and, with some first-year coaches in the district, it's just tough to say anything right now. I think the principles we teach offensively and defensively have hit home. As far as the basketball IQ goes, we're right there and can make in-game adjustments when necessary." — Christman.

Shiprock

Head Coach: Chester H. Atcitty Jr., 2nd year.

Last Season: 25-4, 1st district 1-3A, Eliminated in the quarterfinals of the state tournament.

Key Returners: Hiram Gleason, Justin Begay, Patdric Toehe, Kevin Aspaas, Dominique Todacheenie Darryle Nelson.

New Additions: Andre Joe.

Season Outlook: "I'm expecting us to do well, but we're taking it one quarter at time and not look too far down the road. Our worst game (last year) was the last game of the season. We need to worry about ourselves and not anyone else. We're hungry and definitely want to go further than last year. It's all or nothing, and we have to play together. We love to run and gun, but we have to control the ball, because we know good teams will stop that." — Atcitty Jr.

Bloomfield

Head Coach: Devon Manning, 1st year.

Last Season: 11-17, 5th in District 1-4A.

Key Returners: Dustin Dugger and Michael Crockett.

New Additions: Tyler Barker and Tristan Reddest.

Season Outlook: "I expect Dugger and Crockett to provide leadership. I don't know exactly what we have yet, because we're still getting the football guys back, but I think 3A is a good spot for us. We're not afraid to compete with 4A teams around here, but I think 3A is where we should be. The district will be tough, though, with Shiprock, Wingate and Thoreau. All those kids know is basketball. I think once we get the flow going, we'll hit our stride in January. We're stressing teamwork this season." — Manning.

Navajo Prep

Head Coach: Dustin Moore, 1st year.

Last Season: 4-21, 5th in District 1-2A.

Key Returners: Tyler Sorensen and Mika Mauga.

Season Outlook: "I'm really surprised with our freshman, and I'm confident when it comes to teaching basketball. I have a simple way of teaching that the kids can pick up. I try not to expect anything. We have goals, though. I want us to get over .500. I feel we will be able to compete at the 2A level." — Moore.