Broncos struggle in opener, fall 58-44

Karl Schneider

KIRTLAND – All the signs of season opener jitters were evident for the Kirtland Central boys basketball team as the Broncos fell to Los Lunas 58-44 Tuesday night at Bronco Arena.

During the game, the Broncos mishandled the ball, which led to turnovers, missed multiple layups and often missed routine box-out assignments that led to offensive rebounds and easy second-chance points for the Tigers.

“Lack of focus. That’s what I think it boiled down to,” KC head coach Brian Dowdy said. “I felt good coming into tonight, but it was a lack of focus. If we can’t hold on to the ball, can’t make layups — it felt like we missed 100 layups — those things are going to come back and bite you.”

Kirtland Central's Terrin Willie attempts a jump shot over the Los Lunas defense on Tuesday at Bronco Arena in Kirtland.

The first half was a defensive battle. Midway through the first quarter, Los Lunas (1-1) held just a 5-4 lead, but the Tigers finished the quarter on a 12-2 run.

The Broncos (0-1) clamped down in the second quarter, holding the Tigers to just 4 points, but Los Lunas’ defense stayed sharp, and the offensive struggles continued for KC, which went to halftime trailing 21-13.

“The little things start to add up. You don’t catch a ball, you miss a layup, you miss a defensive assignment, we probably got outrebounded four to one, it felt like,” Dowdy said. “It was one thing after another, and I think it was just a lack of focus. Los Lunas is a good team, and they took advantage of it.”

Coming out of halftime, the Broncos picked up the intensity, using a mix of their full-court press and half-court trap to create confusion for the Tigers. The new level of intensity worked early in the third quarter, but after seeing the press for a few possessions, the Tigers figured out how to break through for easy layups and built a 40-27 lead heading to the fourth quarter.

Los Lunas' Zanen Zeller, left, and Thean Nelson fight for the lose ball against Kirtland Central's Noah Lee on Tuesday at Bronco Arena in Kirtland.

Throughout the game, KC’s guards were able to beat Los Lunas’ defenders off the dribble, but the shot-blocking presence of 6-foot-6 Thean Nelson kept the Broncos from attacking the basket.

“I think a lot of guys are playing timid, and we talked about that a lot at halftime and in timeouts,” Dowdy said. “There are some guys who have never played varsity before, and that showed. They weren’t quite ready for the big stage, but they’ll get there. This group works super hard, and they’ll come back and be ready.”

Los Lunas’ Kayden Walker led all scorers with 13 points.

Eric Foutz led the Broncos with 10 points.

KC will be on the road Friday, taking on Pojoaque Valley.

“Pojoaque, we don’t know a whole lot about them,” Dowdy said. “They graduated 10 players, from what I’ve read, so I don’t know much about them. But traditionally, they’re a good team, and it’s going to be a fight. I’m still extremely optimistic about this group. We have some adjustments to make and a lot of things we need to work on.”

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.