Broncos hold off Shiprock rally, win 61-49

Karl Schneider

SHIPROCK – The Kirtland Central boys basketball team showed a mental toughness Thursday night that could go a long way for the Broncos as they chase another district title and deep run in next month’s state tournament.

After allowing a 15-point second-half lead dwindle to 4 in the fourth quarter, the Broncos rallied to overcome a fighting Shiprock team and its raucous crowd for a 61-49 victory at the Chieftain Pit.

“We told them that was the big thing,” KC head coach Brian Dowdy said of staying mentally composed. “I told them every timeout and every time someone came over to the sideline, ‘Hey, you’re fine. Just calm down,’ and I thought they did well.”

Both teams struggled to get their offense going in the first quarter, and heading into the second period, KC (12-13, 8-1 District 1-4A) led 10-8.

Kirtland Central's Bryson Dowdy shoots over Shiprock's Elijiah Harry on Thursday, Feb. 17, at the Chieftain Pit in Shiprock.

Shiprock (13-12, 5-4) got going in the second, starting the quarter on an 11-5 run to take a 19-15 lead. But then a string of wild events allowed KC to retake the lead.

First, Shiprock senior Andre Joe took a hard fall with a little less than five minutes remaining, forcing the Chieftains to play the rest of the game without one of their captains and best players.

On the fall, Joe landed hard on his left shoulder. After getting attention from the training staff under the Shiprock basket for a few minutes, Joe was taken to the locker room, not moving his left arm. He did not return.

“(A shoulder injury is) what it’s looking like right now, but we won’t know for sure until (later),” Shiprock head coach Chester Atcitty said of Joe’s injury. “Either way, we have to have him ready to go next week, if he can. If he can’t, it is what it is.”

Following the injury, the Chieftains were hit with a pair of technical fouls to help KC build a 28-23 lead at halftime.

The Broncos started the third quarter on fire, outscoring Shiprock 14-4 over the first 4:15 to open a 42-27 lead. During the stretch, KC continually pounded the ball inside to Noah Lee, taking advantage of Shiprock’s lack of size with Joe out of the game.

“That was always the plan, and at halftime we reiterated it," Dowdy said. "With Andre Joe out, we felt like their inside presence couldn’t handle our bigs, so we made it a point to run a lot of high pick-and-rolls and get it inside. We got a lot of lobs and easy buckets for Noah, and Noah had a great game. He was a workhorse for us.”

But the Chieftains wouldn’t go away.

Shiprock's Elijiah Harry takes a shot during a game against Kirtland Central on Thursday at  the Chieftain Pit in Shiprock.

Atcitty could be heard yelling to his players to keep fighting, and they did. Over the next 5:45, Shiprock would cut the deficit to 4 points, making it 47-43 game with about 6:30 remaining in the game and igniting the Shiprock faithful.

After the Chieftains made their run, Dowdy said his message to his team was to stay calm. The Broncos did just that and outscored their opponent 14-6 during the final 6:30 to pick up the win.

Lee scored 10 of his 16 points in the third quarter to lead KC. Bryson Dowdy scored all 8 of his points in the fourth quarter to help secure the win for the Broncos.

Elijiah Harry scored 15 to pace the Chieftains.

Shiprock will host Wingate (12-12, 3-5) on Saturday.

KC will play at Bloomfield (18-6, 9-0) on Saturday. If KC can get a win, it will force a one-game playoff between the Broncos and Bobcats for the No. 1 seed in the district tournament.

Bloomfield 70,  Zuni 37

Bloomfield (18-6, 9-0) is one win away from the regular-season district title and a perfect record in district play after the Bobcats rolled to a 70-37 win over Zuni (8-16, 1-8) Thursday night in Zuni.

“Offensively, we had really good ball movement throughout the whole game. We were really unselfish,” Bloomfield head coach Devon Manning said. “Defensively, we weren’t playing good defense for about the first quarter and a half, then we called a timeout and really jumped on them after that. Overall, it was a good effort from everyone.”

Malachi Pablo led Bloomfield with 26 points.

Bloomfield will host Kirtland Central (12-13, 8-1) on Saturday with a chance for perfection and the district title on the line.

“We control our own fate," Manning said. "We know it’s going to be a dogfight. Kirtland is coming in trying to force that playoff game, so we know they’re going to be playing with extra energy and urgency. We have to be ready for that and be able to match whatever they bring.”

Navajo Prep 45, Rehoboth Christian 23

Navajo Prep (20-6, 7-1) clinched the regular-season District 1-3A title with a 45-23 win over Rehoboth Christian (9-14, 2-5) Thursday night in Rehoboth.

The Eagles led 22-11 at halftime and excelled on defense in the second half to pick up the win.

“We just clamped down on defense,” Prep head coach Rick Hoerner said. “Our guards Tyler Morgan, Isaiah Chavez, Nachae (Nez) and Maceo Tortalita did a great job of protecting against the 3-pointer and kept their best player from scoring on us.”

Chavez led the Eagles with 12 points, and Hoerner said another six players scored between 6 and 8 points each to give Prep a well-balanced attack.

The Eagles now wait to learn who they’ll play in the district tournament next week.

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