ALBUQUERQUE — A ragged first quarter doomed the Kirtland Central boys basketball team's hopes of advancing in the 4A state playoffs.
No. 4 Centennial jumped out to a 15-5 lead in the opening eight minutes and would never let go of the advantage as they defeated the No. 5 Broncos 49-40 on Wednesday at The Pit in Albuquerque.
The Hawks (22-7) forced eight of the Broncos' 18 turnovers in the first quarter and held KCHS to 2-of-12 from the field to acquire the early lead.
KCHS head coach John Zecca said it was just the nerves of the moment and not anything unexpected from the Hawks' defense that led to the deficit.
"It was mostly jitters. They didn't do anything we weren't ready for," Zecca said. "We scouted them pretty well, had some film to watch and knew exactly what type of press they were going to throw at us. Most of these guys haven't been here before and that's expected I guess."
Christian Mackey was solid in the paint for the Broncos, finishing with 17 points and 16 rebounds in the loss, but had a tougher time around the basket that usual with Centennial's 6-foot 6-inch Ben Hindes guarding him most of the contest.
"I haven't really faced anyone of his stature this whole season," Mackey said of Hindes. "It was a good challenge for me."
Hindes recorded a double-double of his own during the battle with Mackey finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
"It was really challenging. We both fought for our points and we came out with the victory," Hindes said.
Kirtland Central (20-7) went into halftime trailing 23-15 with Mackey responsible for all but two KCHS baskets.
The Broncos needed a spark in the second half to get back into the game and Bud Willie provided it.
Willie scored seven of his 15 points in the third quarter, helping cut the Centennial lead to 32-27 after three quarters.
"He really stepped up and was aggressive with his drives to the basket," Zecca said of Willie.
KCHS trimmed the Hawks' advantage to three or four points on multiple occasions in the second half, but was never able to complete the comeback as Centennial knocked down its free throws in the final minute to secure a place in the 4A semifinals.
The Broncos shooters struggled the entire game as KCHS finished 0-for-11 from 3-point range.
"We knew we were going to get a lot of outside looks," Zecca said. "I think it was the nerves. We just weren't shooting with a lot of confidence like we normally would. If we hit just a couple of those, it's a different game."
The Hawks offense never found its groove either, shooting 39 percent (19-of-49) and just 2-of-10 from 3-point range.
However, Centennial turned the ball over only nine times, leading to more offensive opportunities, which proved to be the difference.
Zecca said coming into the game, Omar Baez and Cesar Molina stood out on film as the Hawks go-to scorers.
KCHS limited the duo to just nine total points on 3-of-16, but the rest of the Centennial players picked up the slack, shooting nearly 50 percent from the field (16-of-33).
Outside of Mackey and Willie, no other Bronco could find the shooting touch, scoring just eight total points on 3-of-18 shooting between them.
Aaron Okinga led the Hawks with 13 points in the victory.
The Broncos will graduate eight seniors off the roster.
"We really built a bond over this senior year as a family," Mackey said. "This is one of the closest teams I've had throughout my years at Kirtland."