Piedra Vista’s Rytisha Brown (30) shoots the ball over Kirtland Central on Thursday at Bronco Arena in Kirtland.
Piedra Vista's Rytisha Brown (30) shoots the ball over Kirtland Central on Thursday at Bronco Arena in Kirtland. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

KIRTLAND — The Piedra Vista girls basketball team has earned the right to host the District 1-4A tournament championship.

The Lady Panthers pulled away in the fourth quarter to defeat Kirtland Central 57-36 on Thursday night at Bronco Arena in Kirtland.

"Historically, we've struggled here in Kirtland. It's always a tough place to play," PV head coach Joe Reed said. "This was our best effort and most complete game of the year."

The Lady Panther defense locked down KCHS for most of the contest, limiting the Lady Broncos to just 24 percent shooting (12-of-50) in the win.

"It just came down to good team defense tonight," Reed said.

Kirtland Central’s Megan Silversmith (15) and Piedra Vista’s Payton Kee (21) scramble for the loose ball on Thursday at Bronco Arena in
Kirtland Central's Megan Silversmith (15) and Piedra Vista's Payton Kee (21) scramble for the loose ball on Thursday at Bronco Arena in Kirtland. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

Kieyoomia Benally scored eight of her game-high 19 points in the final quarter to help seal the win for the Lady Panthers.

Benally said her mindset was to attack the basket after she struggled with her shot in the third quarter.

"I was thinking about driving and getting fouled so we could get in the bonus," said Benally, who hit 7-of-10 from the field in the win.

PV (17-8, 5-0 District 1-4A) had KCHS in foul trouble most of the final quarter, getting to the line 18 time during the final eight minutes.

KCHS coach Rochelle Curry warned her team going into the contest about PV's aggressive style and hoped the players could limit the Lady Panthers' free-throw opportunities.

"We just sent them to the line," Curry said. "We tried to put ourselves in a position where we wouldn't foul. It's something we still need to work on."

The Lady Panthers hit 19 of their 28 attempts.

KCHS (7-17, 2-3) opened the game on a 12-4 run, but PV answered with an 8-0 run of their own to tie the game at 12 after the first quarter.

"We came out real aggressive and wanting to score. We had a purpose those first four minutes or so, then we just lost sight of it," Curry said.

Kirtland Central’s Orquidea Reyes shoots a three-pointer over Piedra Vista’s Rytisha Brown (30) on Thursday at Bronco Arena in Kirtland.
Kirtland Central's Orquidea Reyes shoots a three-pointer over Piedra Vista's Rytisha Brown (30) on Thursday at Bronco Arena in Kirtland. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

PV was able to take control in the second quarter, holding KCHS to 3-of-14 from the field as they opened a 26-18 lead at halftime.

"It all came from our defense," Benally said. "We were out there talking and figuring out who to guard."

The Lady Panthers led the rest of the contest.

Jacklyn Smith scored 11 points for PV in the victory, while Kaleigh Graham added 10.

Keeshawna Ockerman led KCHS with 16 in the loss.

Both teams finish out the regular season on Saturday. KCHS will travel to Aztec, while PV hosts Farmington.

"Hopefully, we can keep this going. We'd love to go into state with an eight-game winning streak," Reed said.

Joshua Perry can be reached at jperry@daily-times.com; 505-564-4577. Follow him on Twitter @jperrysuu.