After playing each other four times during the regular season, the fifth meeting between Bloomfield and Shiprock was the closest game to date.
The Bobcats fought hard against the Chieftains in the District 1-3A tournament championship game Saturday night at the Chieftain Pit but, in the end, Shiprock (22-5) was able to win for the fifth time this year against Bloomfield (11-17), this time coming away with a 59-51 win.
“It was a good ball game. Bloomfield had a great plan and came ready to play. They rattled us,” said Shiprock head coach Chester H. Atcitty Jr. “A lot of respect to them. We were able to hold them off, but they played us dead even.”
In the previous four matchups, Shiprock had beat Bloomfield by an average of 30 points. Saturday night’s game was a different story.
Bloomfield led 3-0 out of the gates, but Shiprock went on a 13-0 run to take a 22-14 lead after one quarter.
“That first quarter alone was the difference in this game,” Atcitty said. “They got us 18-14 in the second quarter, and we got them 15-11 in the third, but we were dead even in the fourth with eight each.”
Bloomfield took the lead at one point in the second quarter at 24-23.
“Our guys played well, hard,” said Bloomfield head coach Devon Manning. “I couldn’t ask for a better effort. They just made some costly errors. We definitely played our hearts out.”
Shiprock had a tough time putting the Bloomfield away from the free-throw line, going 0-of-7 in the fourth quarter after not shooting a free throw the entire third quarter.
Justin Begay led Shiprock with 18 points while three other Chieftains were in double figures.
Dominique Todacheenie scored 12 and Hiram Gleason had 11 while District 1-3A MVP Patdric Toehe scored 10.
“Any of our guys can go off at any time, and we let it happen naturally,” Atcitty said. “The guys all know their role out here and they play together. Our teamwork has carried us this far, and this is what we want to do as a team. All of these guys are my district MVP’s.”
Begay, Gleason and Kevin Aspaas joined Toehe on the all-district first team.
Todacheenie, Darryle Nelson and Randall Belin were named to the second team for all-district.
Making the first team for Bloomfield was Michael Crockett, Ryan Johnson and Dustin Dugger.
Johnson led the Bobcats with 13 points Saturday night while Cesar Serna chipped in 12 in the loss.
Both teams are set to make appearances in the 3A state tournament.
Atcitty isn’t sure where the Chieftains will be seeded, but he is excited to host a first-round playoff game next Saturday night.
“We have to be ready to play whoever they match us up with. Even though whoever we play is going to have to come in here, we are going to have to bring our A-game,” Atcitty said. “It is a one-game season now. Whoever we play will have nothing to lose. We have been this far before, and we want to keep going. The biggest things will be keeping the guys focused and making sure we maintain our work ethic.”
Manning knows his team will have to hit the road in the first round, but said the team can compete if they bring the same energy into next Saturday’s game as they did to the Chieftain Pit.
“If we bring the same effort, we are going to be difficult to beat,” Manning said. “It is going to be hard for anyone to beat the environment we played in tonight. It will be difficult to duplicate.
“Tuesday, we will be ready to rock and roll and get ready to play whoever.”
Sports reporter Joshua Perry contributed to this report.
John Livingston may be reached at email@example.com or 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.