BLOOMFIELD — There isn’t much that Malachi Pablo hasn’t seen on the basketball court.
The senior guard for the Bloomfield boys basketball team saw the Bobcats go from struggling to a 4-22 record two seasons ago to making the state tournament last season after posting a 21-8 record. And when the Bobcats needed someone to step up during the District 1-4A tournament title game last season, it was Pablo who sank the go-ahead bucket with 11 seconds remaining to give Bloomfield the championship.
“He’s got a lot of experience. He’s a three-year starter, so there’s not a lot that he hasn’t seen,” Bloomfield head coach Devon Manning said of Pablo. “He helps everyone, and helps in every aspect of the game, and you can really see the maturity and growth he has had in the last three years.”
This season, the Bobcats are 11-6, and opened play in District 1-4A with two solid wins. They beat Wingate on the road 77-70 on Thursday, then dominated Shiprock 64-37 on Saturday at Bobcat Gym in Bloomfield.
Pablo said the main difference between the forgettable sophomore season, and last season and this season, is that the team as a whole has grown up and has focused more on teamwork.
But it’s still a work in progress. This season the Bobcats have been inconsistent, playing well for a few games, only to have a letdown. And Pablo feels it comes from lapses in maturity.
“We just need to grow up, and I think we’re slowly starting to do that as a team,” he said. “We’re bonding more and our teamwork is finally coming together now. In the beginning, we didn’t know we were that good, and now there’s a lot more pressure. We’re realizing we need to be more patient on the floor and use our defense to lead to our offense.”
Pablo has made a name for himself the last couple seasons as a dominant scorer. In the two district games this season, he combined for 37 points. Manning has given Pablo a green light to shoot, regardless of whether he’s having an off night, and he is now embracing the team concept by looking to get other players involved on offense.
“I always want him to shoot. Regardless of if he has missed 10 in a row, I still want him to shoot,” Manning said. “He’s done well in the last four games — we’ve had to get other people involved and he hasn’t tried to rush or force his shot. He can get hot, but if he’s not hitting, he needs to rely on his teammates, and he’s done that these last four games.”
Bloomfield picked up wins in each of those games.
As much as Pablo does to impact the outcome of a game on the court, the experience and the leadership he brings to the team may be his biggest influence on the Bobcats.
“Everyone looks to him. Even the other seniors we have look to him to be the leader,” Manning said. “They understand that he’s always calm during a game. Whether we’re playing well or playing badly, he’s always calm and they look to him to have a calming feeling for everyone else.”
If there is something that could break through Pablo’s calm exterior, it would be avenging last year’s state tournament loss to rival Kirtland Central in the first round.
“We want it bad, I know that,” Pablo said. “We have a team full of seniors and we all want to end on a good note. We want revenge from last year.”
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.
A closer look: Malachi Pablo
1. Favorite movie?
"John Wayne in The Cowboys."
2. Favorite food?
3. Favorite subject in school?
"English, I guess."
4. Least favorite subject in school?
5. Do you have any pre-game rituals?
"Eat a breakfast burrito from Roadside (Restaurant)."
6. Favorite Athlete?
"Probably Michael Jordan."
7. Favorite team?
8. Biggest fear?
"Probably failure, losing."
9. What would you do if you won $1 million?
"Save it up and get to a billion."
10. Do you play any other sports?
"Rodeo. I do calf roping, bull riding and team roping."