KIRTLAND — When the Kirtland Central girls basketball team opened the District 1-4A tournament on Feb. 25, they needed three-straight wins over the next five days to get into the state playoffs.
The Lady Broncos came together during that time to play their best basketball of the season, knocking off Aztec, Farmington and Piedra Vista to earn the district's tournament championship and earn the automatic playoff bid.
Coming off the bench, sophomore guard Deiondra Smith stepped up to lead KCHS in scoring during the three games with 41 points, including a team-high 15 against FHS and 16 against PV in the district title game.
"It felt pretty good, and getting the wins was the most important thing," Smith said. "To help my team during this time is pretty much the best feeling."
KCHS coach Rochelle Curry said having Smith provide that scoring boost off the bench is a big benefit to the team.
"She's just come on this last week for us. She didn't play in that last regular season game and it turned something on in her," Curry said. "She knows her role and her confidence is growing, and coming off the bench has helped her, she's been able to see how the game is unfolding."
Smith hit 9-of-15 from the field during the wins against PV and FHS, including 4-of-4 from 3-point range.
When defenders would try to limit the KCHS guard's 3-point shots, she drove past them and attacked the basket, getting to the free-throw line in the process where she hit 9-of-14 attempts in the final two victories.
Smith said she prides herself on her all-around game and taking the openings the defense gives.
"I try to attack the basket as much as I can," she said. "I was able to get open and make my shots when I could."
Smith is one of five sophomores who have handled the bulk of the scoring load during the season, along with senior Keeshawna Ockerman.
Curry said the young Lady Broncos' squad have a bright future ahead of them.
"They've matured a lot these last couple of weeks, and it's a good thing for the program," Curry said.
Smith is looking forward to the experience of playing in the state tournament, even though she knows the matchup with No. 1 Los Lunas will be a difficult one.
"It's going to be pretty tough. We'll have to work harder," she said.Joshua Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4577. Follow him on Twitter @jperrysuu.