KIRTLAND – The Kirtland Central girls basketball team was outsized, and lacked the energy fans are used to seeing, but in the end, the Lady Broncos managed to pick up a 43-31 win over Grand Junction, Colo., in the first round of the Lady Bronco Tournament Thursday night at Bronco Arena.
“We didn’t have any energy at all tonight, and I don’t know why,” KC head coach John Zecca said. “We looked like the ones who just got off a four-hour bus ride. We are fighting some colds and things like that, but I just told them, ‘Whatever we were just doing today, we need to change it.’ But we were able to fight through it and beat what was a really tall team.”
The Lady Tigers list eight players between 5-foot-8 and 6-foot, compared to just two 5-foot-8 players on KC’s roster.
Outsized, and not knowing much about Grand Junction’s playing style, the Lady Broncos gave their opponent outside shots, which the Lady Tigers refused to take. The hosts packed their defense into the paint with a 2-3 zone.
“When I looked at their roster, my eyes got big just looking at their height,” Zecca said. “We didn’t know how (well they shoot the ball), so we came out trying to feel them out in the first quarter. They weren’t shooting at all from the outside, so we decided to pack it in as much as we could.”
Grand Junction did not make a 3-pointer in the game.
KC (6-3) started strong, knocking down open jumpers and creating turnovers with its full-court press to open a 16-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Lady Tigers (4-7) scored 4 quick points in the opening minute of the second quarter to cut the deficit to 16-13. But KC’s Krystal Sheka converted a 3-point play to spark the Lady Broncos, who forced four straight turnovers out of their press and pushed their lead to 25-17 at halftime.
Grand Junction started the third quarter on fire, going on an 8-2 run to make it a 27-25 lead for KC with 4:57 remaining in the quarter.
With KC needing a spark, freshman TJ Nez stepped up, catching a skip pass on the right wing and draining a 3-pointer midway through the third quarter.
After both offenses slowed at the end of the third, KC’s Haile Gleason knocked down a 3-pointer on the first possession of the fourth quarter to get the Lady Broncos going again.
“We were able to pick it up a little bit. We hit a couple of 3s that were big for us, and that helped to get them going a little bit,” Zecca said.
KC’s defense continued to lock up the Lady Tigers, holding them to 6 points in the final 12:57.
KC’s Krystal Sheka and Shamika Benally scored 9 points each.
Grand Junction’s Tori Catlett led all scorers with 15 points.
KC will face Bloomfield (6-2) at 6 tonight in the second round of the tournament.
Navajo Prep 57, Native American Community Academy 47
Navajo Prep overcame a poor shooting night to top Native American Community Academy 57-47 in the first round of the Striking Eagle Invitational Thursday night in Albuquerque.
“It was pretty ugly. Neither team shot very well,” Prep head coach Rick Hoerner said. “It was kind of a bizarre game, and neither team played very well.”
Hoerner said the Eagles (8-4) jumped to a 10-point lead midway through the first quarter and maintained an 8- to 13-point cushion on NACA (3-9) throughout the game.
Tyler Pete led Prep with 15 points, and Nachae Nez added 10 points.
Prep will continue play at 6 tonight, taking on the winner of Red Mesa and Rock Point, both out of Arizona.
Weather postpones area tourneys
Once again, weather forced multiple basketball tournaments to postpone games.
The Aztec Lady Tigers Rumble, which was set to begin Thursday afternoon, pushed its start to today, with its first game beginning at 9 a.m. and the last game of the day at 8 p.m.
The Lady Bronco Tournament, hosted by Kirtland Central, also had to postpone games after Farmington and Bloomfield canceled school on Thursday. With the schools canceling classes, the FHS and BHS girls basketball teams were not allowed to play in the tournament’s opening day and will play two games today.
The Kirtland Central boys basketball team, which is playing in Gallup’s tournament, was forced to move its first-round game against Sandia Prep from Thursday to 10 a.m. today and will play two games today, as well.
The Aztec boys also had to postpone their game at Los Alamos until 7 tonight.
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.