Just for them to experience (the finals), it was great for not just our girls, but our community and our surrounding Pueblos — Bernalillo coach Raymond Aragon.
ALBUQUERQUE — Kirtland Central kept coming at Bernalillo in waves, on both ends of the floor.
Transition layups. Corner 3s. Multiple put-back looks. Immediate defensive pressure front to back, even when dropping back into the paint to withstand penetration.
As a result, the Spartans’ state championship aspirations quickly faded in a 55-32 loss in Friday’s 4A state basketball finals.
“I’m not trying to make excuses. I think we didn’t hit as many shots as we’d like, of course,” said Bernalillo point guard Juliana Aragon, also this year’s New Mexico Gatorade Player of the Year. “Kirtland’s a great team, and we just couldn’t get the job done today.”
Bernalillo (28-2) was held to just 25 percent shooting overall on the night. Sixteen of BHS’s 36 field goal attempts were 3-pointers.
“I think we settled a lot for the 3, and part of that was our legs and fatigue,” Bernalillo coach Raymond Aragon said.
Kirtland Central (27-5) won its first blue trophy since 2012 and its 20th state title overall in program history. Kirtland’s Aisha Ramone had 23 points and eight steals.
“It’s surreal. Even after the game, we’re thinking to ourselves, ‘We actually did it.’ It was just so fun to watch how they played tonight, man,” Kirtland coach Devon Manning said.
Kirtland kept applying pressure, pulling ahead for good with a 17-6 run in the third quarter.
It was the Spartans’ first state finals appearance since 1983. Juliana Aragon scored 13 points.
Similar to Thursday’s semifinals, Bernalillo’s starters played virtually the entire game. All five starters’ minutes ranged from 27 minutes to just over 31 minutes.
In hindsight, Raymond Aragon said he thought about giving the bench players extra minutes to help give the starters a bit of a breather here and there. But in the end, he said he decided to play his starters that long because of their work ethic and because they’d played back-to-back games with extended minutes before.
“I just went with my starters,” he said.
Even so, Bernalillo embraced being back in the state finals.
“Just for them to experience (the finals), it was great for not just our girls, but our community and our surrounding Pueblos,” Raymond Aragon said.