Kirtland Central boys believe state title is within their reach


KIRTLAND — The time is now.

That's the motto for the Kirtland Central boys basketball team, an indication that its expectations for this season have reached new heights, and that means winning the blue trophy.

The Broncos set that bar high for themselves after demonstrating last year they can give New Mexico's toughest teams trouble on the floor. KC ousted Artesia in last year's 5A playoff opener and pushed eventual 5A state champion Roswell to overtime in the quarterfinals. KC was eliminated by Roswell, and players are convinced to this day they should've gone deeper in the tournament.

"I was kind of wondering how they were going to react on the bus ride home," coach Brian Dowdy recalled. "We got back into school a week or two later, and they brought it up that they can't wait for next season."

Players were adamant that had they made that extra put-back or two late in that game, they could've advanced and won the state title.

"All of our players are very heartbroken. The players that are coming back, for sure they're very motivated," senior shooting guard Terrin Willie said. "We did show we can hang around (with) Roswell, who was the No. 1 team. We weren't that far off from beating them."

Dowdy said the players realized after that loss to Roswell that KC is fully capable of beating the best teams.

Now that its key players are back for 2017-2018, KC will view anything short of a state title as a letdown.

"This year, everybody's wanting it. It's on everybody's minds," Willie said. "The whole team, the community, everybody knows that we're a great team. I hear it constantly from teachers, family members, friends, everybody in the community."

Kirtland Central (18-11 last year) returns Willie, senior center Nathan Enoah, senior point guard Jariah Setzer and senior wing Bryson Dowdy.

"We're pretty deep, we've got good leadership. We've got inside and outside games, a lot of good ball handlers. We've really got all the components that it takes to make a really good team," Brian Dowdy said.

KC opens the new campaign at 6 p.m. Tuesday at home against Los Lunas.

"I'm very excited (for) this year and very confident that we will take it all the way," Enoah said. "I believe (playing in tougher games) makes us a tougher opponent, and we'll have a target on our back."

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.