Kirtland Central boys basketball team falls to another 6A foe

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KIRTLAND — After the Kirtland Central boys basketball team suffered its sixth loss in seven games Thursday at Piedra Vista, the visiting locker room was dead silent.

"Nobody was really doing much. Just sitting there, looking at the ground," senior wing Bryson Dowdy said.

In that moment, the Broncos realized they were at a crossroads: either start tearing it up on the floor leading up to state tournament time or allow the slide to keep spiraling downhill.

KC hopes to prevent the latter, thanks to a key stretch of games meant to help the Broncos be ready for 5A powers Capital, Española Valley and Los Lunas in the playoffs.

KC (8-7) has faced four 6A teams since Dec. 28 in the form of Mayfield, Hobbs, Eldorado and PV. That demanding slate is something the Broncos view as a schedule designed to prepare them for the rigors of the state tournament.

"You see presses, you see half-court, you see it all," coach Brian Dowdy said, adding that his players are learning how to better survive the grind of tougher games.

Aside from being struck by how well teams like Hobbs and Eldorado move the ball around, senior point guard Jariah Setzer said those games have shown KC players they need to be more vocal in setting things up on the floor.

On the flip side, Setzer also said the younger players coming off the bench are learning how to better handle the pressure of playing in big games.

Bryson Dowdy said Kirtland must display more of the hustle that teams like Hobbs and Eldorado display.

Dowdy also said KC is working on being even smarter with its shot selection when attacking the basket, as well how it gets defensive rebounds.

"We've learned that we need to box out and that we can't just out-jump everyone," Dowdy said.

Thursday's loss, in which KC blew a 48-35 third-quarter lead, seemed to take a big emotional toll on the seniors, in particular, because they understand it's time to take that next step building on last year's run to the 5A state quarterfinals.

If it is successful in returning to University of New Mexico's Dreamstyle Arena, commonly known as the Pit, for the state tournament this year, Kirtland wants to show that its bruising run of 6A competition wasn't for naught.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.

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