Streaking Lady Broncos beat Bloomfield 49-38

Navajo Prep can't get going on offense against Grand Junction

Jake Newby

KIRTLAND – In the first meeting of the season between the District 1-4A rivals, the Kirtland Central girls basketball team cruised past Bloomfield 49-38 on Friday at Bronco Arena.

The win — KC's fifth in a row — lifted the Lady Broncos into second place in 1-4A and dropped Bloomfield to third. They are both looking up at 10-1 Shiprock.

"It was a good win for us against a quality team," KC coach John Zecca said. "We didn't start out great, but I thought in the second half, we were able to get away from (Bloomfield)."

Kirtland Central (7-3) thoroughly controlled the game from the middle of the second quarter. KC is now 2-0 at its own Lady Bronco Tournament after getting by Grand Junction, Colo., on Thursday.

An early second-quarter 6-0 run by the Lady Bobcats (6-3) briefly put coach Tom Adair's team in the driver's seat with a 14-13 lead. But after that, it was all Lady Broncos.

Kirtland Central's Shamika Benally attempts a shot against  Bloomfield on Friday at Bronco Arena in Kirtland.

Senior Shamika Benally netted a game-high 20 points. The shooting guard sank a pair of big 3-pointers in the second quarter to create some distance between KC and Bloomfield, and her squad was able to build on a comfortable 23-16 halftime lead.

Adair said early foul trouble for Destiny Walther — one of his top scorers — hurt Bloomfield's chances. She managed only 4 points in the game.

"Destiny's probably our best player, but she's gotta be smarter," Adair said. "Some of it is getting better positioning. She's gotta be smarter so she doesn't pick up some of those fouls."

KC's defensive rotations were great all night. That side of the ball took advantage of the Lady Bobcats' disoriented offense as Walther sat on the bench for much of the first half.

"We usually hold teams pretty low. I don't credit the defense enough," Zecca said.

Eighth-grader Talia Ockerman provided a major spark for KC defensively. She was constantly anticipating Bloomfield's passes, coming away with four steals on the night.

"She gave us a very big spark tonight, and that was what we needed," Zecca said. "Our energy has been down lately."

KC stretched the lead to 14 by the early portion of the fourth quarter. Bloomfield was better than KC at the free-throw line late in the game, shooting 10 for 12 in the last period. But Kirtland was good enough at 9 for 13.

The host Lady Broncos play Farmington (4-5) at 10 a.m. today. School was canceled at FHS on Friday due to snow, so the Lady Scorpions didn't make it to Kirtland for day two of the tourney, where they were scheduled to play Bloomfield. To make up for it, the Lady Bobcats will have a doubleheader today, taking on Navajo Prep at 8 a.m., followed by Grand Junction at noon.

Grand Junction, Colo., 24, Navajo Prep 13

The final score between Grand Junction and Navajo Prep (4-7) looked more like a halftime score, but after losing to KC on Thursday, the Lady Tigers will take the victory.

Navajo Prep's Harlei Haceesa battles for a loose ball against a Grand Junction, Colo., player on Friday at Bronco Arena in Kirtland.

Grand Junction (5-6) picked up the 24-13 win on Friday in the Lady Bronco Tournament thanks to strong defense and size inside, which wore Prep down defensively late in the contest.

Navajo Prep coach Rainy Crisp thought her offense struggled mightily to execute, which spoke to the Lady Eagles' inability to notch a field goal in the first half.

"We're not being aggressive out of our plays, we're not reading each other, we're not setting each other up; all the little things we go over, we're not doing," Crisp said. "It's frustrating, but, hopefully, (today) we'll come out better."

It's not a shock that Prep came out flat after being called early Friday to replace Farmington in the tournament. Still, Prep turned the ball over at an alarming rate all afternoon and has now dropped four straight games after starting 4-2.

Grand Junction's frontcourt was full of energy, even late, battling for every board and scoring key buckets in the paint down the stretch.

The Lady Eagles will also play twice today, facing Bloomfield at 8 a.m. and Farmington at 2 p.m.

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