BASKETBALL

Lady Broncos put unbeaten streak on line against top-ranked Farmington

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON − Tuesday night's showdown between the Kirtland Central High School girls basketball team and the Lady Scorpions from Farmington High has all the makings of an important game.

But it also means very little in the long term.

The Lady Broncos are putting their unbeaten season on the line Tuesday night at home in front of what likely will be a sold out and energized crowd at Bronco Arena. The defending Class 4A state champions are 13-0 this season and haven't lost a game in nearly 11 months during a 24-game win streak that dates back to last season.

The Lady Scorpions, with a record of 10-1 this season and coming off a blowout win on the road over Monument Valley (Arizona) on Dec. 22, are currently the third-ranked team in Class 5A in the state of New Mexico. Farmington's only loss this year came on the road in a tournament game against Volcano Vista in a rematch of last season's Class 5A state semifinals.

Neither team is playing for a district title Tuesday night. Neither team's road to their respective state tournaments will be largely affected by the outcome of the game.

"We've both got different directions to go after this game, but it will help both teams in learning what we need to do down the road," said Farmington head coach Tom Adair. "We wanted this game at this time because it will help us prepare for a game a couple of weeks from now against Volcano Vista."

And yet, there's a palpable sense of something special in the air for the game, which has a scheduled tipoff of 7 p.m.

"There's going to be a packed house for sure for this game," Adair said. "It's such a huge deal for the schools in this area and the community overall, which has really embraced basketball on so many levels."

Farmington's Kamalani Anitielu (3) dribbles past Navajo Prep's Shiloh Conn (22) during the first quarter of their girls basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022 at the Eagles Nest.

Kirtland Central is averaging a fraction more than 64 points scored per game this season, while their defense is allowing slightly more than 29 points per game. Their average margin of victory this season is a shade more than 35 points. The Lady Broncos have won three regular season tournament championships with wins over schools from Arizona, Utah and Colorado.

Farmington is averaging 64 points per game this season as well, while their defense is allowing only 27 points per game. The Lady Scorpions opened the season with a 22-point blowout win at home against Kirtland Central's biggest rival Gallup, and have also recorded victories over schools from Texas and Colorado.

Both Kirtland Central and Farmington have impressive victories this season over Navajo Prep, one of the top-ranked teams in the state this season and winners of the Class 3A title in both 2020 and 2021. Farmington rolled over the Lady Eagles 67-39 at the Eagles Nest on Dec. 6 while the Lady Broncos crushed Navajo Prep 67-16 just 14 days later.

Farmington will be coming into Tuesday night's game off an extended rest, having not played since their win at Monument Valley. In those ten days, the Lady Broncos have traveled to and successfully captured the Goddard Holiday Classic, capped off by a 33-point rout over the host team in the tournament's championship game last weekend.

"We've been having some great practices these last couple weeks," Adair said. "We're fortunate to have a group of seniors who have shown so much leadership, and these girls get how big this game is for both teams, and we're real excited to get on the court."

Kirtland Central's Keira Beall-Gleason tries to get to the basket during the first quarter of a basketball game against Navajo Prep, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022 at the Eagles Nest.

Both teams are led by sensational playmakers. The Lady Broncos feature well-rounded shooters like Aryanna Lansing, Jaylene Harris-Rhea and Keira Beall-Gleason. Emilia Clani and Sydney Smith have also been major factors for Kirtland Central's success this season.

For Farmington, junior Kapiolani Anitielu (18 points per game this season), as well as senior Kamalani Anitielu (13) and younger sister freshman Kjani Anitielu (10) have led the offensive charge this season. But they can also rely on senior Tinaya Parrish, as well as junior Maleah Charlie to score points.

The Lady Scorpions have won each of the last two games against Kirtland Central. Last season, Farmington had four double-digit scorers in an impressive 73-55 win at home over the Lady Broncos. Kirtland Central had won six consecutive matchups with Farmington from 2014 through 2019.

Kirtland Central head coach Devon Manning, who's been careful this season not to let the team rest on the laurels of being defending state champions, is approaching this game much the same way he's gotten ready for each of their first 13 games this season.

"We're looking forward to it. We know (Adair) is going to have his team ready," said Manning. "We have a couple of practices to prepare and be ready for a fun game."

For more information on Tuesday night's showdown between Kirtland Central and Farmington, check out the game's official page on MaxPreps.com.