Kirtland Central basketball approaches season with high expectations

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

KIRTLAND — As the calendar turns closer to December and sporting events this time of year turn more towards the indoor variety, high school basketball begins to take center stage across the state.

In only a handful of spots in New Mexico is that tradition more important than it is at Kirtland Central High School, with a combined 23 state titles to their rich history.

Here's a look at both the boys and girls teams as they prepare to launch their upcoming campaigns.

Girls Basketball

The Kirtland Central girls basketball team came within one game of reaching the Class 4A state finals in what could best be described as an odd season.

Coached by Devon Manning, the Broncos finished second in the District 1-4A standings with an overall record of 10-2 (8-1 in district) before losing in the state semifinals to eventual runner-up Espanola Valley. 

District winner Gallup took the state crown in the shortened season played primarily without fans, a fact which Manning believes his team will draw some inspiration from going forward.

"I think we learned to communicate better on the court as players and coaches," Manning said. "But there's no question we'll draw more energy when we're allowed to have fans back in the gym."

The girls team will feature a number of returning players, including senior Aisha Ramone, who will be a starter once again in her third season on the roster.

The Kirtland Central girls basketball team from last season advanced to the state tournament before losing in the semifinals to Espanola Valley.

"She's a really good defensive player, and I sometimes have to remind her how good she really is," Manning said of Ramone. "She's a very unselfish player which can be both good and bad, but she's definitely going to be a key to our success."

In addition to Ramone, the team also expects to have Emilia Clani and Teghan Begay back on the court when the season gets started later this month.

"We're still a young team and we'll have some growing pains right out of the gate," Manning said. "But those early season games will say a lot about how good we can be down the road when district starts."

The Broncos girls team will compete in a tournament in Page, Ariz., in early December that will give Manning and his players an early idea about what the season may look like for the illustrious program.

"There's going to be some really good schools at that tournament, from all over the region and even a team from Phoenix, so it will be a good test for us," Manning said. "But that's what those early tournaments are for, as much about winning as it is to find out where we're going." 

Kirtland Central girls basketball coach Devon Manning

The girls team will be looking for their 20th state title this season. Currently, Kirtland Central holds the record for most state titles by a girls team in New Mexico, but there are challenges not just for the overall trophy, but also within their own district.

"We can't just assume anymore that we can wrap up a district title," Manning said. "Gallup won the district last year. Bloomfield and Miyamura and Aztec are always going to play us tough, so the challenge is right there in front of us."

The Kirtland Central girls basketball season will open Tuesday, Nov. 30 at home against Piedra Vista. For a complete schedule, visit the team's official page on the MaxPreps website.

Boys Basketball

Head coach Brian Dowdy doesn't want to dismiss the performance of his team from last season. Instead, he wants his team to use it as motivation.

The Kirtland Central boys team advanced to the state tournament after an abbreviated regular season last spring, but were eliminated in the first round of the tournament on the road against Espanola Valley.

"It was a great season for us overall, considering the peculiarities of it all," Dowdy said of the 10-2 record overall and finishing as co-champions with Gallup in District 1-4A. "You could argue the seedings and us playing on the road in the first round of the playoffs, but it was a good season for us."  

Gallup and Kirtland Central finished with identical 8-1 records within the district last season, but Gallup earned the higher seeding in the state tournament, eventually losing in the semifinals to Artesia.

Kirtland Central boys basketball coach Brian Dowdy

"There was no district tournament like there'd been in years past, so they (Gallup) won the tiebreaker," Dowdy said. 

And while there will be somewhat a return to normalcy as far as district playoffs and schedules are concerned this season, the challenges remain the same.

"Certainly, the district race is tight again this time around," Dowdy said. "Gallup's got a really good team and Miyamura, Bloomfield and Aztec always have good strong programs, so we've got our work cut out for us."

Satchel Hogue and Kragen Cadman figure to be key players in the success of the Broncos this season. Cadman, a senior, also played a large role with Kirtland Central's football team this past season.

"He's a good, sharp player," Dowdy said of Cadman. "He's done really well both offensively and defensively."

With last year's two leading scorers Cameron Crawford (graduation) and Elijah Jenks (relocation) both absent from the team this season, the emphasis on scoring may well fall on the shoulders of junior Satchel Hogue, the team's third leading scorer with 89 points last season. 

"It's tough to lose top scorers like those two (Crawford and Jenks)," Dowdy said. "But Satchel's got a lot of confidence in what he's doing and where his game is going, so I'm real excited to see what he's going to do."  

The need to get chemistry going for a young team is essential at this time of the year, with the tipoff of the season coming up in less than two weeks.

"They get along really well, and that's important," Dowdy said. "They're not a big team so it'll be a different style for us, but I think our fans will love it."

Kirtland Central's Kragen Cadman attacks the basket against Aztec's Austin Schaub on Friday, April 16, 2021, at Bronco Arena in Kirtland.

The Kirtland Central boys basketball season opener takes place on the road, Saturday, Nov. 27 at Valencia. For a complete schedule, check out the Broncos official page on the MaxPreps website.

Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680.