BLOOMFIELD — Until recently, senior Adriano Stevenson hadn't strung together more than three games in a row since his sophomore season due to multiple injuries.
Now that he's finally enjoying sustained health, the Bloomfield boys basketball team is taking advantage of what it has missed.
Separate injuries to both of Stevenson's ankles over the past year and a half forced him to miss huge chunks of his prep basketball career. His most recent injury — a sprain to his right ankle in the third game of the season — put him on the shelf for four games, and Bloomfield went 0-4 during that stretch.
Since the sharpshooting guard returned in late December, the Bobcats have gone 9-3. On Saturday, they defeated rival Kirtland Central 70-61 to claim first place in District 1-5A. For the season, Bloomfield is 11-8 overall and 4-0 in the district.
Stevenson's fingerprints were all over the win; he dropped a game-high 28 points to go along with five rebounds, four assists, three steals, two blocks and four 3-pointers. He was 12 for 12 from the free-throw line and played the role of closer by burying eight of those free throws in the fourth quarter.
"He's very involved in every aspect of the game," Bloomfield coach Randy Crockett said. "He's one of our leading offensive players, he's one of our better defenders, and, for his size, he's a good rebounder. He's also probably one of our best assist guys. He sees the floor so well."
Stevenson's 16 first-half points against KC demanded adjustments, and the Broncos made admirable ones, limiting Stevenson to only two field goals after halftime. But as his versatile stat line showed, he affected the game in a multitude of ways. Making plays was one of them, and Stevenson's passing ability has wowed his coach at times this season.
"He made one pass, the ball was tipped up by the sideline, and he went up and caught it and made the pass before he even hit the ground," Crockett said. "How many high-school kids are even gonna see that and think that fast in that situation?"
The winners of six straight games, it's no coincidence that Bloomfield has hit its stride since Stevenson got healthy. Last season, Stevenson missed all but three games of his junior campaign, and the Bobcats found success anyway. Led by the recently graduated Malachi Pablo, one of the best pure scorers in last year's Class 4A, Bloomfield made it all the way to the 4A quarterfinals against West Las Vegas.
That quarterfinal was Stevenson's third game back from a broken left ankle, which he suffered in the Bobcats' final football game of the 2016 season. Stevenson said he was feeling better every day last spring, and he proved it against West Las Vegas with 17 points. He wondered what might have been had Bloomfield defeated the Dons.
"I wouldn't say I was all the way back, but it was starting to come back to me," Stevenson said, of his ankle's health. "I'm sure if we won that game, who knows what would have happened. Because I think we would have gave Robertson a pretty good game, too."
The rehab process was a difficult one for Stevenson — more mentally than physically.
"It was very hard because I couldn't be out there with my teammates," he said. "I knew they needed me, but we had guys who stepped up like Damion (Sanchez). And we had a pretty good season."
A sense of déjà vu washed over Stevenson on Nov. 28 at Shiprock when he landed awkwardly after a layup attempt.
"I ended up stepping on someone when I came down, and I rolled my ankle," he said. "It just brought a feeling back, like, during football. The pain I felt when I broke my ankle in football was kind of the same feeling. But when I got up, I could walk on it."
Stevenson said he knew his injury wasn't as severe as the first one, so he didn't panic. A rehab veteran at that point, he said he stayed in shape and studied film, which allowed him to return seamlessly to the Bobcats' lineup and immediately start producing.
Despite his injury history, Stevenson said he's playing without fear and he's playing his game, which is full-speed ahead and totally team first. Bloomfield's roster is full of versatile and fundamentally sound players who are capable of carrying the team to victory on any given night. But Crockett said getting his igniter back has made life easier on everyone.
"We missed what Adriano brought," Crockett said. "Losing him, that affects your substitution patterns, your team chemistry — it affects everything. I'm not gonna say we wouldn't have lost some of those games with him on the floor — we probably would have. But it definitely makes it easier when everybody knows their roles. Any time you lose a kid as good as he is, it's a big loss."
Stevenson is averaging 14 points per game, the fourth best average in Class 5A.
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.
A closer look: Adriano Stevenson
1. Favorite athlete?
2. Favorite team?
3. Favorite food?
4. Favorite subject in school?
5. Least favorite subject?
6. Favorite movie?
7. Do you play any other sports?
"Football and baseball, but I didn't play football this year."
8. What is the first thing you would do with $1 million?
"Buy a new house."
9. Do you have any pre-game rituals?
"Just listen to music and pretty much get focused."
10. Your pick to win the Super Bowl?
"I'm going with the Falcons."