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The Kirtland Central girls basketball program has more state championships than any other team in New Mexico.  The Lady Broncos have 20 overall titles and hope for number 21 this season. “It’s a good group, it’s a fast group,” described head coach Devon Manning.  “This is the first time I have a real good mixture of a lot of senior veterans playing with some young girls playing their first year of varsity.  It’s fun to coach, it’s fun to watch, and hopefully, we can continue to play fun.”

It’s a different year, but the same Lady Broncos style of play. “We’re going to be pressing,” said Manning, in his 6th season as head coach.  “We’re going to pick up 94 feet, hoping we can get up and down and get a fast break going off a rebound, and create some turnovers and create some problems, and look to have a fun basketball game.”

Kirtland Central has appeared in the state final four of the last five years, winning it all in 2022. “We always want to get to the Pit,” said Manning.  “Every girl in our program knows that’s a great possibility, but we’re at that point now where the Pit isn’t just enough.  We’re doing our best to try and finish as the last team of the year, but we have to go one game at a time.”

Kirtland Central lost to district rival Gallup in the state championship last March. Manning says they don’t focus on falling short on the final game of the year.  “We try not to,” he said.  “We can’t change the outcome.  We could try to use that as motivation, but if we dwell on what happened too much then we are just going to repeat ourselves, that’s why we are taking this game-by-game philosophy and if we get there, great.  If not, then it’s not in the cards.”

The Lady Broncos have four returning players who saw significant minutes in last year’s state title game. “They understand what we are about and what we are trying to play for,” said Manning.  “We were fortunate enough to win one (in 2022) and that lit the fire even more, which is good.  It challenges me, it challenges my coaching staff to see how can we be better than we were the previous year.”

We’ll find out in March how good the 2024 version can be.

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