There will be a new champion in 4A girls' basketball in 2013.
No. 14 Kirtland Central had trouble scoring much of the season, but the defending 4A state champion Lady Broncos were rolling on an six-game winning streak and were fresh off a District 1-4A regular season and tournament championship heading in to face No. 3 Santa Fe.
The Lady Demons were too much for the Lady Broncos to handle, though, as Santa Fe cruised to a 62-38 win in the state tournament Round of 16.
"Santa Fe is the No. 3 seed for a reason. They are a good team, and a young team," said Kirtland Central head coach Kevin Holman. "They kind of overpowered us on the boards. Once we got down 10 or 11, we had to do things we aren't comfortable with, and they took advantage of it."
The Lady Broncos couldn't contain 5-foot-10 forward Jackie Martinez or 5-foot-9 guard Kayla Herrera as each scored 19 for the Lady Demons.
Sabrina Lozada-Cabbage, a 6-foot-2 sophomore center, was a force rebounding the ball while also showing good ball handling skills up the floor. She finished with seven points.
Santa Fe has seven players over 5-foot-9.
"Other than Andrea Marris, we don't have a girl over 5-foot-5 or 5-foot-6 on the floor," Holman said.
Santa Fe (24-3) built a 22-14 lead at halftime after holding Kirtland Central (12-16) to just three points in the first quarter.
Kirtland Central opened the third quarter on a 4-0 run to cut the Santa Fe lead to just 22-18, but that was as close as Kirtland would come.
Santa Fe responded with a 9-0 run with led entirely by Herrera.
The Lady Broncos answered back with a 7-0 run of their own to cut the Demon lead to 33-25, but Santa Fe extended its lead to 44-29 before the end of the third quarter.
"We made a nice run to cut it to 22-18, but once they got it back to double digits we had to do things we aren't comfortable with like pressing and trapping," Holman said.
The Lady Broncos were led Friday by Taylor Billey's 17 points in her final game as a Lady Bronco.
"She was our leader all year long. She was the district player of the year for a reason, and she earned every bit of it," Holman said. "I am proud of all my seniors who could've rolled up and quit with the way things started this year. Instead, they fought all the way to the end.
"I am proud of what all the girls accomplished this year and of the great young ladies they are and are going to be. In mid-January, nobody in San Juan County thought we would win district, but these ladies believe in it all year long. They earned the district title. Tonight, we just ended our season to a better team."
Keeshawna Ockerman finished the game with nine points and Marris had eight in the loss for Kirtland Central.
Holman is excited about the future of Lady Broncos basketball with a slew of young girls returning.
"Ockerman will be a senior and Tamara Benally a junior. Then we have Orquidea Reyes and Shamika Benally coming back who saw starts and quite a bit of minutes as freshman this year," he said. "We will get another freshman back and be right in the thick of district again and hopefully, we get back down to The Pit."
John Livingston may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.