4A boys basketball playoffs: Broncos hold off Bloomfield to reach quarterfinals
KIRTLAND — Kirtland Central is bound for the boys 4A state basketball tournament.
The No. 8 Broncos fought for all 32 minutes, never trailing No. 9 Bloomfield, and picked up a 45-36 victory in the first round of playoffs at Bronco Arena Saturday.
"It feels awesome," said KC senior Seldon Watson, who finished with a game-high 14 points. "I don't really know what to say right now."
After the Broncos (11-17) and Bobcats (21-8) met twice during their district schedule, splitting the series, they knew what the other would try to do Saturday and dug in for a defensive fight.
"I thought it was going to be a defensive battle. There's too much familiarity; that's always a tough thing. There's no surprises," KC head coach Brian Dowdy said. "We knew it was going to be a defensive battle. That's what we stressed all week."
After the first quarter, KC held a 10-8 advantage and stretched its lead to 20-15 at halftime.
"I think at the beginning, you could see it in their eyes — they were scared to shoot the ball or have it in their hands. They wanted to get it out of their hands as quick as possible," Bloomfield head coach Devon Manning said of his team.
The Broncos came out firing in the third quarter, building a 29-18 lead with about 5:00 remaining in the quarter. But the Bobcats wouldn't go away, answering with a 9-0 run before heading to the fourth facing a 31-28 deficit.
Bloomfield cut the lead to 33-32 with a little less than 5:00 remaining, but a series of missed layups and free throws prevented the Bobcats from taking the lead.
"We couldn't make a layup, there were three or four that rimmed out," Manning said. "I think we went five of 12 in the second half from the (free throw) line. We talk about free throws and layups being the key to games, and Kirtland did it better than us tonight."
While the Bobcats failed to convert down the stretch, the Broncos picked up back-to-back jumpers from junior Riley Hamblin — who finished with nine points — to keep Bloomfield at bay.
"Every close game we have, someone that no one expects steps up and does the job for us. Tonight, it was Riley, and we're all proud of him," Watson said.
Adriano Stevenson and Brendan Charley finished with nine points each for the Bobcats.
The win moves the Broncos into the quarterfinals for the second straight year, where they'll face No. 1 Hope Christian.
"It's an experience that we'll cherish. Not a lot of teams get to go to state, and for us to do it, it feels great," Watson said. "We know how to persevere. Everyone is really strong mentally, and they're starting to see that we could be that Cinderella team that makes a surprise run at state."
No. 6 Pojoaque Valley 55, No. 11 Shiprock 43
The Chieftains' season came to a close as they fell to Pojoaque Valley 55-43 in the first round of the boys 4A playoffs in Pojoaque.
"It was a real slow start for both teams. It was just 6-5 (with Pojoaque Valley leading) at the end of the first quarter," Shiprock head coach Chester Atcitty said. "We played really tense and really tight."
After the slow start, the Chieftains (14-15) built a 21-17 halftime lead, but a rough third quarter allowed the Elks (19-9) to take a 33-30 lead into the fourth.
Shiprock was able to keep things close throughout most of the fourth, but when the Chieftains needed to foul to gain extra possessions, the Elks coolly knocked down the free throws to secure the win.
Junior Andre Joe led the Chieftains with 11 points. Seniors Rookie Hoskie and Ryan Benally closed out their careers for Shiprock with 10 points each, while fellow senior Deron Johnson added nine points.
"This season was defined by the team's effort," Atcitty said. "We won together and lost together, and I'm proud of these guys."