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Kirtland Central basketball teams ready for upcoming season


KIRTLAND − Whether you're Devon Manning, coaching the Kirtland Central Lady Broncos to potential back-to-back state championships or Brian Dowdy, hoping to get the Broncos boys team into the state tournament, the theme is the same heading into opening night of the prep basketball season.

It's time to turn the page.

Here's a glance at what to expect for both the boys and girls basketball teams this season at Kirtland Central.

Girls Basketball

Manning, who coached the Lady Broncos to a historic 20th state championship title last season, isn't letting the idea of defending anything get to him or his team.

"All we're hoping to do is compete for a state title in 2023, nothing more and nothing less," Manning said. "We're not looking at anything like we're the best team because we have a championship. We want to be the best team this year."

The Lady Broncos went 27-5 last season, including a 9-1 mark in District 1-4A on their way to a championship run which culminated in a blowout 55-32 win over Bernalillo last March at the Pit in Albuquerque. Led by senior Aisha Ramone's highlight-reel performance in which she scored 23 points and recorded eight steals, the Lady Broncos are tied for fourth in the nation among high school girls basketball teams for most state titles.

"Really we're not trying to coast off what we did last year, and we know that's how people are going to look at us," Manning said. "But we're not looking at that as a team or a coaching staff."

Without Ramone leading the team, Manning will be calling on a number of returning starters as well as some talented newcomers to fill those shoes.

"Hopefully, all of them can help fill those shoes," Manning joked. "If they all do their parts correctly and have learned from their experiences from last season, they can achieve a lot."

Returning to the team this season are senior Teghan Begay and junior Emilia Clani, both of whom are coming off strong fall campaigns on the volleyball courts.

"There's a lot of girls on the team who can have a big season for us," Manning said. "We have to find a way to replace the girls we lost and make this year's team our own."

Ariana Lansing, who arrived at Kirtland Central as a transfer student last winter, is also expected to be a big contributor to the Lady Broncos.

Begay and Clani helped lead the Lady Broncos volleyball team to the Class 4A state tournament this past season, and that's something Manning hopes will carry over to the basketball court.

"The style of pace that we play at is most similar to what we do from volleyball," Manning said. "But the soccer players and cross-country athletes also have that competitive edge that we're always looking for. All those teams had really good seasons and all I can do is hope that they keep riding that competitive wave."

The Lady Broncos will open their season on Tuesday, Nov. 29, at Piedra Vista before competing in a tournament in Page, Arizona, followed by another tournament at Moriarty. For more information about the Lady Broncos, including a complete schedule and roster, check out their official webpage at MaxPreps.com.

Boys Basketball

The team started the season 2-6 before rattling off six consecutive wins entering the District 1-4A campaign. From there, the Broncos lost seven of their last 10 games to finish with an overall record of 12-15.

Despite getting off to a slow start and having an unfortunate tail off at the end of last season, head coach Brian Dowdy felt Kirtland Central made significant strides.

"Last season was a bit of a flop," Dowdy said. "At one point, we had the best record in the district and then to not make the playoffs was a real disappointment. We were in a lot of real close games, but we just didn't finish them and I feel like we could have done a lot better."

With a number of key players coming back to the court for this season, Dowdy is confident that a more experienced roster will be ready to compete for a district title.

"I think we just didn't have enough mental toughness in some situations down the stretch last season," Dowdy said. "But now they've learned that competitiveness and they've gotten more familiar with what's expected of them."

In a district that saw three teams (Gallup, Miyamura and Bloomfield) all reach the Class 4A state tournament, Dowdy is hoping his more veteran-laden roster will rise up to the challenge.

"Those other district teams aren't going anywhere, there's always some really good teams out there," Dowdy said.

Junior Devin Ramone is expected to be a big contributor to the squad this season, as are seniors Jarvis Mullahon, Jr and Satchel Hogue.

"All three of those guys can be real game-changers for us on any given night," Dowdy said.

In addition, crossover athletes like Andres Melendez who played on the Broncos soccer team this fall are expected to contribute on the court this season.

"For me, it's more about those fall teams having competitive seasons and doing well," Dowdy said. "I think that those kids having that winning or qualifying experience is what we're looking for."

The Kirtland Central boys basketball team will open their season at Bronco Arena on Saturday at 2 p.m. against Valencia followed by a trip to Sandia Prep to open tournament competition. In the final week of December, the Broncos will take part in the Poe Corn Tournament at Roswell High School against some of the top teams in the state.

For more information on the Kirtland Central boys basketball team, check out their official page at MaxPreps.com.