BLOOMFIELD — Another chapter in the 550 rivalry was written when the Bloomfield girls basketball team hosted Aztec for the District 1-5A tournament title tonight.
The two schools have been battling each other for decades, trading shots year after year, but on this occasion, the Lady Bobcats proved themselves the better team in a 41-33 victory at Bobcat Gym.
"I think we picked up where we left off on Wednesday night against Gallup," Bloomfield coach Tom Adair said. "We came out with a lot of energy. The girls were very determined to get the district tournament championship, and I'm very proud of them."
Bloomfield beat Gallup 52-43 in the semifinals while Aztec upset No. 1 seed Kirtland Central 47-36 to advance to the championship.
Defense shined for Bloomfield in the win. The Lady Bobcats defense held Aztec to 14 points at halftime, then shut the Lady Tigers down in the third quarter, allowing just 2 points in the frame.
Bloomfield needed the dominant defensive performance, as its offense wasn't always on point during the game.
After a quick start to the third quarter, the Lady Bobcats went nearly six minutes without a made field goal. But Aztec couldn't get anything to fall and trailed 29-16 going into the fourth quarter.
"We had a good game plan, but execution was very poor. The girls were just nervous as heck all across the board," Aztec coach Robert McCaskill said. "We didn't play anywhere close to where we're used to playing. Anything that could go wrong went wrong."
Bloomfield maintained a double-digit cushion for the bulk of the fourth quarter, with Aztec cutting it to single digits with about one minute left on the clock.
The two programs now turn their attention to the 5A state tourney.
As the district tournament champions, Bloomfield receives an automatic bid into the state tourney and will be in contention to host a first-round game as a top-eight seed.
Aztec is one of 10 teams in 5A to boast a winning record and will receive an at-large bid into the 16-team tournament.
Brackets for the state tourney will be released Sunday.
"It doesn't matter where we land at. We're the type of team that if we're on, nobody can beat us," McCaskill said. "We're a flip of a coin. Flip the coin, and if the good side comes up, you better watch out. If it’s the bad side, it's hard as heck for us to get a win."
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.