Bloomfield edges Kirtland Central on the road

Lady Bobcats claim first place in District 1-5A with 45-43 win

Jake Newby

KIRTLAND — The Bloomfield girls basketball team brought its defense with it on the road tonight in a 45-43 win over Kirtland Central at Bronco Arena.

Bloomfield's Kara Watchman shoots a floater in the paint against the Kirtland Central defense on Friday at Bronco Arena in Kirtland.

Bloomfield (14-4, 3-0 District 1-5A) handed KC its first district loss and took sole possession of first place in 1-5A with the victory, which was spearheaded by a Lady Bobcat defense that forced 23 turnovers on the night.

Bloomfield was a lukewarm 16 for 29 from the free-throw line and missed bunnies at the rim left and right, but defense was its guiding light in the gritty road victory.

"We've been drilling every day, working our man defense, and its really made us a better defensive team," Lady Bobcats coach Tom Adair said. "I'm proud of the way the girls work in practice and the way they're coming together as a team."

Bloomfield took a 12-10 lead into the second quarter, when Haile Gleason of Kirtland Central (8-8, 3-1) was waiting for them with two quick 3-pointers out of the gate. Gleason buried three triples total in the second in helping her squad take a 10-point lead near the end of the half, the largest lead for either team all game.

KC led by 6 at halftime, but couldn't match Bloomfield's energy in the third.

"I told the girls at halftime, I said, 'We've got them right where we want them,'" Adair said. "We just came out, and the girls played basketball."

The Lady Bobcats won the third quarter 11-5, thanks in large part to their anticipation of KC's passes. The visitors periodically went with a full-court press, which wreaked havoc on the KC guards who were trying to pass the ball up court.

Lady Broncos coach John Zecca said that despite running the same press that Bloomfield runs, his girls couldn't break it tonight.

"Bloomfield did a good job of kind of baiting our passes a little bit, and we had bad tunnel vision," Zecca said. "They were sneaking up and getting steals. Down the stretch that was a big difference in the game."

Zecca said his girls rushed too much as a whole and were generally rattled by Bloomfield's defense.

Kirtland Central's Tiajhae Nez drives past Bloomfield's Halle Payne on Friday at Bronco Arena in Kirtland.

Tied at 38 with a little more than two minutes left on the clock, and with both teams struggling mightily to hit their layups, Bloomfield made an effort to initiate contact and get to the free-throw line.

Mattie Waresback and Halle Payne went a combined three for four over the course of an otherwise scoreless minute of play, before KC's Siigrid Lii'bilNaghahi cut it back to a 2-point deficit with a layup.

KC's costliest turnover of the game came just 20 seconds later, after Kara Watchman split a pair of FTs to make it 42-40, Bloomfield.

Tiajhae Nez of the Lady Broncos spun around on the base line and whipped a pass out of bounds near the KC bench. KC then had to foul Bloomfield twice in the final 25 seconds. Watchman and Destiny Walther went a combined three for four on those trips to lock up the road win.

"Our bench girls gave us quality minutes so I could rest the starters, and they'd be fresh for the end of the game," Adair said. "And our girls handled it. I thought we were in good shape, and we finished strong."

Watchman notched 12 points for Bloomfield, while Gleason posted a game-high 16 points for the Lady Broncos.

Bloomfield hosts Farmington (7-12, 1-3) on Tuesday, the same day KC visits Gallup (8-9, 1-1).

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