Lady Broncos will play Shiprock Monday night for No. 1 seed in the district tournament
RIO RANCHO – It wasn't easy, but the Kirtland Central girls basketball team cleared a major hurdle on Friday to force a one-game district tiebreaker against Shiprock.
KC outplayed Bloomfield down the stretch and won 49-42 at Bobcat Gym. The Lady Broncos will now battle Shiprock for a third time this season on Monday in Gallup to determine the No. 1 seed in next week's District 1-4A tournament.
Senior Krystal Sheka has come alive late in the season for the Lady Broncos (19-6, 9-1), and she had her fingerprints all over Friday's win with a game-high 24 points.
"She hasn't been the same player she was last year, but that's starting to change," KC coach John Zecca said of Sheka. "If she can stay confident, it'll give us a big boost going into state."
After a seesaw first half, Bloomfield (17-9, 6-4) outscored KC 13-12 in the third quarter to briefly snag a 2-point lead. A mixture of decent shooting and repeated trips to the free-throw line helped Kirtland retake the lead for good down the stretch.
The Lady Broncos shot 12 of 20 from the charity stripe in the fourth, an improvement on their 17 for 34 clip in the game.
Bloomfield coach Tom Adair said his girls played well, just not well enough.
"We had nine girls all play hard tonight," he said. "We just missed some easy layups and didn't box out a couple times when we needed to. The effort was there, though."
Kara Watchman led the Lady Bobcats in scoring with 13 points. Bloomfield's season leader in scoring — Destiny Walther — was held to just 8, as KC made a concerted effort to deny her the ball in the post.
Monday's tiebreaker in Gallup is set to tip off at 6 p.m.
Shiprock 78, Wingate 44
The Lady Chieftains (23-3, 9-1) held up their end of the deal by dismantling Wingate 78-44 on the road to punch their ticket to Gallup.
Paige Dale poured in 18 points and Tanisha Begay helped out with 13 as Shiprock played its brand of basketball on Friday night.
"Our goal was to keep (Wingate) at 35. We didn't quite do that, but it was still good to see," Lady Chieftains coach Larenson Henderson said. "We moved the ball well and were in our spots all night."
Shiprock is hot right now, having won seven straight contests with the Wingate (11-14, 3-7) victory. If they can top KC on Monday, the Lady Chieftains will earn home-court advantage in a possible fourth game with the Lady Broncos in the district tourney final, should both teams get that far.
Henderson said in order to win on Monday, his team has to stop getting caught up in the rivalry.
"It's like they've watched (this rivalry) their whole lives and now they're in it, so they put a lot of extra pressure on themselves," he said. "I'm just telling them to not be so buddy-buddy and go out there and compete a little bit."
Navajo Prep 40, Rehoboth Christian 19
Navajo Prep (11-14, 6-2 District 1-3A) ended its regular season on a high note, shutting down Rehoboth Christian (9-15, 3-5) for a 40-19 victory Friday night at the Eagles Nest in Farmington.
“It was one of those up-and-down games for us,” Prep head coach Rainy Crisp said. “I like that our defense is becoming more consistent, but we missed a lot of putbacks. But that’s fine with me as long as our defense is playing well.”
Harlei Haceesa led Prep with 13 points and Chantel Wagner added 10.
Prep will next play in the District 1-3A tournament next week. Its opponent and the date of the game are yet to be determined.
“The thing I want to see is to continue to get stronger on defense,” Crisp said. “Our offense will come and we’ll get baskets, but it’s our defense that I want to continue to focus on.”
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.