Notebook: Don't sleep on these squads. They could make serious noise in district play

Matt Hollinshead,
Navajo Prep's Dontrelle Denetso grabs the loose ball rebound against Farmington during the Marv Sanders Invitational boys basketball tournament on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019 at Scorpion Arena in Farmington.

Navajo Prep boys

Prep (8-7) has fared well so far this season, considering the circumstances.

The Eagles will finally play at home tonight, taking on Crownpoint to start off District 1-3A action.

Prep spent its first 15 games away from the Eagles Nest, and its non-district schedule only grew tougher.

Prep handled business against foes like Shiprock (twice), Aztec (twice) and Bloomfield, but faced stiff competition at the Striking Eagle Native American Invitational and the Gallup Invitational. 

The Eagles picked up key wins over Laguna Acoma and Grants, and they also played the likes of Newcomb, Gallup and Arizona’s Gilbert Christian. Prep also had to travel to Sandia Prep.

It’s quite remarkable, actually.

Not one home game during non-district play.

All the traveling.

And the Eagles, who now place an even greater emphasis on defense under first-year coach Matt Melvin, are tied for the fifth-toughest schedule of all 3A squads so far, according to

Prep has a golden opportunity to surge up the 3A state playoff standings.

Kirtland Central's Brock Dowdy drives toward the basket against Farmington during a boys basketball game on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, at Scorpion Arena in Farmington.

Kirtland Central boys

The Broncos endured their growing pains last season, winning just five games amid a significant rebuilding phase.

Players like Brock Dowdy and Ty Jenks had to go from the bench to being the next core group, and do so in a hurry.

They gained much-needed experience in handling a greater workload and enduring the grind of the long season.

And now that players like Jaxon Manning, Troy White-David and Cameron Crawford are emerging, Kirtland’s returning to relevancy. KC’s very much in the thick of the 4A state playoff race.

After losing games to Bayfield, Farmington, Monument Valley and Belen last year, Kirtland’s already beaten those same foes this year. That alone is a step in the right direction.

Gallup’s again sitting atop District 1-4A, but Kirtland can make that race interesting and solidify its case for a playoff berth.

The two sides will do battle at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Gallup.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 and on Twitter at @MattH_717.