FARMINGTON — The Bloomfield Bobcats gave the Shiprock Chieftains a scare in Shiprock's own tournament on Thursday night.
Shiprock scored just four points in the third quarter after leading 36-25 at halftime. The Bobcats crawled back into the game and trailed by just three points the majority of the fourth quarter before the Chieftains (7-3) put the game away to win 53-45 in a District 1-3A preview during the opening round of Shiprock's round-robin tournament.
"It is always good to get a win, any way you can get it. We will take it," said Shiprock head coach Chester H. Atcitty Jr. "We really aren't playing that well right now."
Shiprock had just one player score in double digits as Justin Begay finished with 10 points. Hiram Gleason and Deron Johnson each had nine points in the win.
Atcitty complimented the Bloomfield (2-5) team and said they played with more discipline than a season ago.
"I think the guys are buying into what I am saying. They are playing with a bit of an edge now," said Bloomfield head coach Devon Manning. "We are starting to find who we are and who we are ready to rely on."
Raymundo Sanchez led Bloomfield with eight points. Manning said he had several players score between six and seven points.
Shiprock was just 1-for-11 shooting in the third quarter when the Chieftains scored four points. Atcitty was happy to see his team hold off the Bobcats in the fourth quarter.
"We pulled it together and turned it on. We had to get down to business," Atcitty said.
Shiprock will play Taos in the second round today while Bloomfield will face Aztec. Manning said he expects another tough game against Aztec.
Atcitty said his players will have to give it their best to beat another tough Class 3A team in Taos.
"I have a lot of respect for Taos. They are a good, quick team that presses hard with their man defense," Atcitty said. "We have to have patience and find the higher percentage shot. It needs to be a whole team effort, otherwise it will be tough."
In the first game of the tournament, Taos edged Aztec 53-49 in a game that was neck-and-neck throughout.
"Every quarter was separated by just two or three points. Taos made a few more plays down the stretch than we did," said Aztec assistant coach Carl Downing. "Our guys came out with good intensity, and the game was very fluid. It just came down to a few possessions."
Dylan Stinson led Aztec (3-6) with 17 points. Tory Choman added another 15 points, and Juwan Charley had 10 points in the loss.
Although Aztec has come up on the wrong end of six games this year, the first-year coaching staff is happy with the team's progression.
"We are implementing a lot of new things, and the guys are buying in. We are getting better each time we go out," Downing said. "We are understanding how to manage pressure situations and getting closer. In a couple of weeks, we should hit our stride."
Aztec will play Bloomfield at 5 p.m. today in the second round of the tournament.
Kirtland Central 80, Gallup 66
The Kirtland Central Broncos picked up a big win on the road in Gallup on Thursday night.
Six days after losing to the Gallup Bengals 82-69 at the Farmington High Marv Sanders Invite, the Broncos hit the road and defeated the Bengals 80-66.
"We just played really well. We came in with a certain game plan, and we had a better idea of what to expect. The kids followed our game plan really well and played great bell-to-bell," said Kirtland Central head coach John Zecca.
Christian Mackey was force all night. Mackey finished with 32 points and double-digit rebounds. Bud Willie also had 16 points in the win.
"We didn't shoot a whole lot of 3s. When you shoot those in Gallup, it turns into long rebounds, and Gallup gets up the court so fast they turn those into points," Zecca said. "We had our back to the basket, and the kids stayed on track with what we wanted to do."
Gallup (4-4) was once again involved in a game featuring a lot of free throws. Kirtland Central (5-3) avoided foul trouble until early in the third quarter and the fourth quarter.
"To start the second half, we were fouling quite a bit, and Gallup was making free throws. We called a timeout and said we can't get into that mode again like we did last week," Zecca said. "The guys did a better job moving their feet. The end of the game was real sloppy. We led by 30 at one point, but they came back some."
Thursday's win was the first for Zecca as a head coach at Gallup High. Zecca graduated from Gallup in 1987.
"That is my hometown, and I hadn't been able to beat them there yet. It made my parents happy, and I think they were happier than I was," Zecca said. "Any way you look at it, it was a good win for us."
The Broncos are back in action Saturday against Bernalillo.John Livingston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.