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Class 5A girls: Bloomfield reaches long-awaited final, to face Los Lunas

This day has been a long time coming for the Bloomfield High School girls basketball program.It’s a day 34 years in the making, to be precise.

The Lady Bobcats on Thursday afternoon played their way into the Class 5A state championship game, holding off a spirited Gallup squad 59-56 in the semifinals at Dreamstyle Arena.

It will be the school’s first state final in this sport since 1984.

“All season long,” senior guard Micaela Abeyta said, “this is what we’ve prepared for.”

No. 2 seed Bloomfield (26-5) will face No. 1 Los Lunas at 7:30 Friday night in the Pit. It will be the fourth meeting of the season between the two; the Tigers won in November in Bloomfield and routed the Lady Bobcats in the Village of Lunas final at Valencia just after Christmas.

Bloomfield won the most recent matchup, 54-48 at the Hope Christian tournament in January.

“We’re excited to be here,” Bloomfield coach Tom Adair said. “We didn’t just want to get here, we want to win it. Our girls know they can play with Los Lunas.”

The Lady Bobcats led for almost all of the final three quarters, and yet rarely with any degreee of comfort against their district rival.

Bloomfield led by six at halftime, and by 47-40 when the fourth quarter started.

After the Bengals’ Amanda Mitchel hit a 3 to cut the deficit to 47-46, Alyssa Quintana — who transferred from Dulce as a sophomore — answered 12 seconds later with a 3. That was early in the quarter and was a key exchange.

“She has ice in her veins,” Adair said of Quintana. “She’s a great shooter.”

Later, Gallup had two putback baskets to get within a point again at 52-51 with 2 minutes to go.

Bloomfield eventually secured the win at the free-throw line.

Abeyta teamed with Brandi Alcantar to connect on four straight free throws for the Lady Bobcats to lead 56-51 with 44.4 seconds remaining.

“We’ve won a lot of games in the fourth quarter,” Gallup coach Todd McBroom said. “It just didn’t go our way this time.”

And while Gallup hit a late 3 to pull within two at 58-56 with 11 seconds to go, the Bengals never had a shot to tie the game before the final horn.

“There were a couple of times I thought we could pull away,” Adair said, “but they made some things happen.”

Gallup’s comeback was slowed because of 10 fourth-quarter turnovers.

Halle Payne led Bloomfield with 13 points and eight rebounds. Alcantar added 10 points and seven assists. The Lady Bobcats led for almost the entire final three quarters.

And now they face a Los Lunas team that is battle tested, having reached the 5A final a year ago.

“We’re all ready to play. We came so far just to get to this moment,” said Quintana, who finished with 11 points.

Ashley Antone had a game-high 22 points and 15 rebounds for Gallup (20-11).

— James Yodice

GALLUP (20-11): Ashley Antone 22, Amanda Mitchel 5, Journey Gillson 4, Ashia Smith 0, Cearra Williams 0, Hanna Toldeo 8, Kamryn Yazzie 3, Lanae Notah 0, Leona Smith 14. Totals 19-54 14-20 56.

BLOOMFIELD (26-5): Mattie Waresback 6, Halle Payne 13, Brandi Alcantar 10, Kimberlyn Morgan 3, Micaela Abeyta 9, Sierra Ortiz 7, Alyssa Quintana 11. Totals 20-44 17-22 59.

Gallup 10 15 15 16 — 56

Bloomfield 10 21 16 12 — 59

3-point goals: G 4 (L.Smith 2, Antone, Mitchel); B 2 (Morgan, Quintana). Rebounds: G 46 (Antone 15); B 24 (Payne 8). Assists: G 13 (Toledo 5); B 15 (Alcantar 7). Total fouls: G 22; B 14.

NO. 1 LOS LUNAS 57, NO. 5 KIRTLAND CENTRAL 34: According to coach Marty Zeller, the Tigers began Thursday morning with a mindset rarely seen this season. 
It was the Broncos (18-11) who had to suffer the consequences. Los Lunas (28-2) raced out to a 14-point first quarter lead and was never threatened the rest of way as it advanced to the Class 5A championship game for the second consecutive year. 
“I think we came out with the best focus we’ve come out with all year long in the first quarter,” Zeller said. “Every single player on the floor had the right focus. We knew exactly what Kirtland Central was going to do. We know what their strength is. We know that their 2-3 zone is their bread and butter, and we came out with that focus and we hit the shots.”
The Tigers’ offense was certainly clicking as it led 23-9 after one and extended its advantage to 28-12 early in the second stanza. Senior Mica Jenrette helped Los Lunas begin to pull away with back-to-back 3-pointers in the first quarter. Jenrette and Marissa Weldon each finished with a game-high 10 points for the Tigers. 
“We know we need to come with a great mindset,” Jenrette said. “We’ve done this before. That was our main focus. We don’t usually have strong starts. We knew if we wanted to play and get to the ‘ship, we had to start strong.”
The Broncos got to within 30-19 with 3:17 to go in the first half, but Los Lunas gradually expanded its lead from there. The Tigers led by 16 at halftime and by 24 late in the third. 
Los Lunas held Kirtland Central to 31 percent shooting (12-for-39) for the game while forcing its opponent into 23 turnovers. 
“I think we shut them down in the beginning because we stayed on some players, and they weren’t ready for that,” Weldon said. 
Overall, 10 players scored for the Tigers, and they appeared to wear down the Broncos by substituting in waves throughout the game.
That, Zeller says, is just another day at the office for Los Lunas.
“It’s what we do,” he said. “People ask why were we pressing at the end of the game? It’s what we do. All I can ask them is to play as hard as we can. I think we have some of the best freshmen in the state, and they never get to play.  We’ve got 14 strong players.”
–Tristen Critchfield

KIRTLAND CENTRAL (18-11): Peanut Dryden 3, Haile Gleason 8, Melanie Yazzie 3, Shayonna Begay 6, Siigrid Lii’bilnaghahi 0, Tatelyn Manheimer 0, Avery Begay 0, Jaymie Smart 0, Tiajhae Nez 7, Talia Ockerman 0, Candace Patterson 4, Cortney Patterson 0, Jerica Holiday 3. 12-39-FG 6-12-FT 34.LOS LUNAS (28-2): Jaci Aragon 0, Marissa Weldon 10, Mica Jenrette 10, Dani Ross 2, Mia Guest 0, Jaidyn Schollander 5, Hayley Torres 9, Ashley Blackwell 4, Kylee Trujillo 2, Amber Trujillo 6, Marissa Montoya 0, Natalie Jojola 1, Feleena Gabaldon 0, Maya Trujillo 8. 19-42-FG 13-22-FT 57. Kirtland Central 9 10 9 6—34

Los Lunas 23 12 13 9—57

3-point goals: K 4 (Dryden, Gleason, Nez 2); L 6 (Weldon 2, Jenrette 2, Schollander, Torres). Rebounds: K 34 (Nez, Yazzie 5); L 31 (Jenrette 5). Assists: K 10 (Yazzie 5); L 15 (M. Trujillo 5). Total Fouls: K 19; L 14.

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