Gallup (12-2) went on a 15-3 run from the start of the third quarter into the opening two minutes of the fourth quarter to put Piedra Vista (9-9) away 53-34 Tuesday night at Piedra Vista's Jerry A. Conner Fieldhouse.
“That second half, we just fell apart. That has been our problem,” said PV head coach Mike Christie. “We are young mentally.”
The game was tied at 14 after the first quarter, but Gallup's Rebecca Herrera scored all eight of her points in the second quarter to help give Gallup a 28-24 lead at halftime.
Gallup also received a great effort from Shanel Begay, who scored 12 points in the game but made an even bigger difference with her hustle that caused multiple turnovers.
The Lady Bengals ran away with the game in the third quarter, holding PV to just three points while scoring 11 of their own.
“We missed some layups and free throws in the first half, but that is going to happen with 16-year old girls,” said Gallup head coach Kamau Turner. “But our girls just come and play. I don't think there was any difference in their minds whether we were up 20, up four, down four or down 20. They just play, and they do a much better job than I do about not worrying about the score and just playing.
PV was helped in the first-half by some key 3-point baskets from Coah Charley, who scored a game-high 14 points.
But turnovers kept haunting PV all night.
“Our point guard really struggled. We did shoot well and hit some 3s to keep us in it, but we were soft,” Christie said. “Gallup is an aggressive, in your face team. We have a tendency to back off. We did exactly what their press defense wanted us to.
“The worst four-letter work in basketball is soft, and we are just soft right now. We have to overcome it.”
Piedra Vista's offense ran through Kaleigh Graham, who had eight points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. But Gallup crashed down on Graham and forced her into bad passes.
“Everyone sagged down in and nobody called for the ball outside. It is a fear thing,” Christie said. “We have to get better against that in district because Kaleigh is going to be double and triple teamed every game. Either she has to fight through and score or we need some girls to get open and knock down shots.”
Gallup didn't just double-team Graham, it had multiple bodies crashing on every PV player who touched the ball. It was just another sign of Gallup's athleticism on the floor.
“We always want to help each other. We don't want anyone going 1-on-1 defensively,” Turner said. “We want to get there and help and make it a lot harder on other teams. We did a really good job of helping and getting the first rebound tonight.”
Christie hopes his team can build up some momentum Saturday before beginning district play, but it will be a tough task against Santa Fe Indian School on Saturday.
“We will play better Saturday. The girls aren't happy with their performance,” Christie said. “We are fatigued right now mentally. We aren't out of shape, just mentally tired. We have to break out of that.”