Kirtland Central, Bloomfield also will be home for 5A playoff games on Friday
FARMINGTON — Shiprock drew a well-deserved No. 2 seed in the 2017 Class 4A girls state basketball tournament, but the Lady Chieftains may not have a cake walk later this week during their first-round match-up.
Taking the bus ride up to the Chieftain Pit on Friday will be Santa Fe Indian School, a team that lost to the Lady Chiefs in last year's 4A state semifinal.
Led by second-year coach Christie Abeyta, the Lady Braves (16-10) were a part of the reshuffled District 5-4A. They actually were slightly better in district play this year (6-2 district record) as opposed to last year (6-3), but the class is deeper this time around, so No. 15 SFIS slipped nine spots in the state bracket. Still, Shiprock coach Larenson Henderson said he won't be overlooking the Lady Braves.
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"I don't really know much about them, so we are just going to play our game, but we are not going to take them lightly," Henderson said in a text message. "Records don't matter when it comes to the tournament. Whatever they throw at us, we've got to be able to adjust."
Shiprock (22-5, 6-0 District 1-4A) has won seven straight contests. Its most recent victory was a 69-30 blowout win over Navajo Prep in last week's 1-4A championship game.
Prep (15-10, 3-3) leaped up from 3A to 4A and still won three more games than it did last year. The 10th-seeded Lady Eagles' reward for the progress they've made is a journey to Silver City to face the District 3-4A champion Lady Fighting Colts. No. 7 Silver (20-5, 8-0) charges into Friday's first-round tilt riding a strong wave of momentum with 13 straight wins.
In 5A, two of the four San Juan County area teams that earned state tourney bids earned the right to host their first-round games.
Despite being upset by Aztec in the District 1-5A semifinal game, No. 7 Kirtland Central (13-10, 8-2 District 1-5A) earned a higher seed than Bloomfield, the district tournament champion. The regular-season 1-5A champ, KC welcomes No. 10 Del Norte (14-12, 4-5) — which has lost three of its past four games — into Bronco Arena Friday night.
"Personally, like I've said before, I think the regular season (district title) is more important," Zecca said, reflecting on last week's loss to Aztec. "I think the girls' moods are fine. They know what's ahead for us. They know Del Norte has a good team."
Seeded eighth, Bloomfield (19-8, 7-4) gets No. 9 Lovington at Bobcat Gym on Friday. The Lady Wildcats (13-16, 4-3) played in the difficult District 4-5A, the home of this year's No. 5 seed in Goddard and No. 1 seed in Roswell.
After dropping four straight games in the middle of February, the Lady Bobcats appear to be back on track with back-to-back home wins over Gallup and Aztec.
Farmington (11-15, 5-5) is playing some of its best basketball of the season, and the No. 13 Lady Scorpions will need to keep that trend going on Friday when they visit No. 4 Albuquerque Academy (19-7, 7-3).
Farmington has won four of its last five, but will be hard pressed to slow down Academy's Sophie Long, whose 18.3 points per game led all of 5A this year.
Also on Friday, No. 14 Aztec faces the team that recently knocked off Academy by 15 points in the District 2-5A title game in No. 3 Española Valley (19-6, 8-1).
Aztec's season has been marred by inconsistency, but the Lady Tigers (15-13, 3-7) proved they can be a force when they're focused, as they hit the road last week to knock off two schools — Kirtland Central and Farmington — who ended up with higher seeds than them in the 5A bracket.
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.