BLOOMFIELD — The rest of the state needs to start looking at the Bloomfield boys basketball team a bit more seriously.
After starting the season 2-7, the Bobcats have won eight of their last nine games, including tonight's 75-68 battle with Gallup at Bobcat Gym.
"We played a really tough schedule at the beginning of the year and played almost every game on the road, so to be able to come home and play the district schedule in front of our crowd has really given our guys a lift," Bloomfield coach Randy Crockett said. "All that time on the road helped them jell. All that time riding the bus together, staying in hotels and being around each other all day every day really helped. We weren't winning many games, and they could have gotten down on each other, but they didn't. I think we're right where we want to be."
The Bobcats (10-8, 3-0 District 1-5A) executed their offense well throughout the night. They torched Gallup's defense from long range in the first half, connecting on nine 3-pointers in the half. And when the Bengals (7-12, 1-2) extended their defense on the perimeter, Bloomfield found openings with backdoor cuts for easy buckets in the paint.
"I think our offense was good in the first half," Bloomfield senior guard Ty Padilla said. "We were running our plays well. In the second half we started to collapse a little bit, but overall, I think we're really starting to click."
Bloomfield never trailed after the first quarter, and took a 39-29 lead into halftime after senior Brendon Charley hit a long 3 in the final seconds of the second quarter.
But a double-digit Bloomfield lead was never safe. Every time the Bobcats would get a big lead, the Bengals would make a run.
Bloomfield built its lead to 12 points early in the third quarter before Gallup went on a 12-2 run to cut Bloomfield's lead to 43-41 midway through the frame.
The Bobcats answered and took a 55-46 lead into the fourth quarter. Again, Gallup made a push, getting back within 2 at 69-67 with 1:34 remaining. But the Bobcats protected the lead, making 9 of 13 free throws in the fourth quarter to hold on for the win.
"Gallup made a run at us, and the boys had an answer. Three or four times, (Gallup) got the game within 2, and we'd pull away again," Crockett said. "I was really impressed with their (the Bobcats) composure and their will to win. They refused to lose tonight."
Padilla led the Bobcats with 24 points after hitting six triples.
Charley scored 7 points in the fourth quarter to finish with 18, and Adriano Stevenson added 12.
The Bobcats will next face Kirtland Central, the only other unbeaten team remaining in District 1-5A, at Bobcat Gym.
Padilla said he believes the Broncos (11-7, 3-0) to be Bloomfield's biggest rival right now after playing in District 1-4A the previous two seasons.
"We have to stop their guards from penetrating, and we need to get out on their 3-point shooters," Padilla said of Saturday's game with KC. "And we have to rebound. They have a big fella, and we have to keep him off the glass."
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.