Bobcats pull away late, reach 5A semifinals

Ken Sickenger, Albuquerque Journal

ALBUQUERQUE — The second-seeded Bloomfield Bobcats didn’t mind chasing for most of the first half, as long as they could set the pace for the second half.

Bloomfield ultimately used its size advantage and depth to take control, wearing down No. 7 Española Valley 57-33 in tonight’s 5A quarterfinals at Dreamstyle Arena.

BHS (25-5) advanced to the 5A semifinals, which will start at 1:15 p.m. Thursday at the Pit.

“The second half has been our half all year,” Bobcats coach Tom Adair said. “It doesn’t seem to matter who we’re playing. The most important thing was that we got ahead at halftime. That allowed us to run, share the ball and play our style of game.”

The youthful Sundevils (16-13) set the tone early with perimeter passing and 3-point shooting early, patiently working the ball in half-court sets and building an 18-12 lead midway through the second quarter. Kaylinn Martinez and Destiny Valdez hit two 3-pointers apiece for Española Valley.

“We came in very nervous,” Martinez said, “but once we started hitting a few shots, it was a fun ride in the first half.”

Bloomfield soon scored the final eight points of the second quarter to grab a 20-18 halftime lead and used another 8-0 run in the third to assume control.

Point guard Sierra Ortiz effectively ran the offense and collected seven assists, several of them on pinpoint passes to Alyssa Quintana and Halle Payne. Quintana and Payne combined for 30 points and 17 rebounds.

“We know each other like the back of our hands,” Quintana said. “When we start playing as a team, it’s a lot of fun.”

Bloomfield built a 34-27 lead after three quarters and quickly put the Sundevils away in the fourth, scoring 15 straight points, many of them in transition or on post shots by Quintana.

The Bobcats hit just one 3-pointer to Española Valley’s six but they shot 46 percent while limiting the Sundevils to 25 percent.

“We had to extend our defense,” Payne said, “and then extend it more when (the Sundevils) kept hitting 3s. Once we got far enough out there and got our arms up, it started working out for us.”

Martinez was quick to give the Bobcats credit.

“Bloomfield’s an amazing team,” she said. “They towered over us but they also hit shots and pass the ball really well. In the second half we were tired.”