PV's fourth-quarter rally comes up short

Karl Schneider
Piedra Vista's Nykki Benally shoots over Gallup's Deerae Torrez during a Jan. 22 game at Jerry A. Conner Fieldhouse in Farmington.

FARMINGTON – The Piedra Vista girls basketball team put together a furious fourth-quarter charge, but it came up just short in its upset bid against unbeaten Gallup Saturday night.

The Lady Panthers trailed 66-42 after the third quarter, then rallied to cut Gallup’s lead to 5 points with 41 seconds remaining. But the hosts came up empty on their final three possessions to fall 77-72 at Jerry A. Conner Fieldhouse.

PV head coach Joe Reed told his team not to quit and to keep grinding entering the fourth quarter.

“We were very prepared for this game,” Reed said. “We didn’t have a turnover in the fourth quarter, and I think we handled their pressure very well. Gallup is a great basketball team, but I think we showed tonight that we can play with anybody.”

The game was very physical to start, and after four minutes of action, Gallup led 4-3. But in the final minutes of the quarter, PV (10-6, 0-2 District 1-5A) began to wilt under the full-court pressure of Gallup (17-0, 1-0), turning the ball over again and again to help the Lady Bengals pull ahead 20-8 after the first quarter.

The Lady Panthers fought back in the second quarter, cutting the deficit to 5 points on three occasions, but each time Gallup responded. With the score at 34-28, Gallup’s Rhiannon Singer buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key as time expired to send the game to halftime with the Bengals up 37-28.

Gallup carried the momentum from Singer’s triple into the third quarter, going on a 9-2 run to start the quarter and help build the 24-point lead going into the fourth quarter.

Piedra Vista's Alexis Long shoots a 3-pointer against Gallup on Saturday at the Jerry A. Conner Fieldhouse in Farmington.

Throughout the game, PV’s defense was solid, but the Lady Panthers struggled to rebound and gave Gallup multiple second and third chances.

“Ever since I’ve been a coach here, even when I was an assistant, we’ve had trouble on the boards here. It’s something we work on every day,” Reed said. “Our game plan coming in was to limit their opportunities by not committing turnovers, taking bad shots or allowing second-chance shots. I thought we did the first two pretty well, but it was the last one that got us.”

Nikki Benally led the Lady Panthers with 29 points while Elli Wright scored 11 of her 19 points in the fourth quarter and went 10 for 10 from the free-throw line.

“I pulled Elli aside and told her that we need her to step up,” Reed said. “I told her, ‘We need you to get to the free-throw line,’ because she’s a great free-throw shooter. We scouted Gallup and told them (the Lady Panthers), ‘You’ve got to pump fake against these guys or you’re going to eat it.’ She did a great job of pump faking, drawing a foul and getting to the line.”

PV will play at Miyamura (6-9, 0-1) on Thursday.

Aztec 58, Farmington 43

Aztec found open looks against Farmington’s defense and knocked down its shots to pick up a 58-43 win over the Lady Scorps Saturday night at Lillywhite Gym in Aztec.

In the second half, Aztec decided to slow the game down and focus on game management.

“We played well. In the second half, we tried something different to work on our youth,” Aztec head coach Robert McCaskill said. “We wanted to be a little more patient and not so aggressive to work on the girls’ game awareness.”

Farmington head coach Danny Secrest said the Lady Scorps started well, but struggled on defense as the game wore on.

“We started out OK, we just lost assignments on defense, and they have a good shooting team,” Secrest said.

Secrest said the Lady Scorps found open shots, but couldn’t get much to fall. And when they got to the free-throw line, the failed to convert, going 14 for 29 from the stripe.

Tanisha Beetso led Farmington with 11 points.

Aztec finished with three scorers in double figures. Reigan Weaver and Myra McCaskill scored 14 points each, and Elana Kresl finished with 11.

Aztec (16-4, 2-0) will play at Gallup (17-0, 1-0) on Thursday.

Farmington (8-8, 1-1) will play at Gallup on Saturday.

Montrose, Colo., 56, Kirtland Central 38

Playing four games in five days got to the legs of Kirtland Central, and the Lady Broncos saw Montrose, Colo., (9-4) pull away in the fourth quarter for a 56-38 win Saturday in Montrose.

“The girls played hard, and their effort was good, I just think we ran out of gas,” KC head coach John Zecca said. “That’s not an excuse. We were down 4 after the third quarter, but two road games back to back makes it tough.”

Zecca said KC (12-5) keyed in on Montrose’s 6-foot-5 Elle Pace on defense, but the senior did a good job of finding open shooters.

“It was a good experience for us. It’s good to see a team like that with that kind of height, just so we have some experience if we see another team with that kind of size at state.”

Haile Gleason was KC’s only player to score in double figures, finishing with 16 points.

The Lady Broncos will host Wingate (8-8, 0-1) in District 1-4A action on Tuesday.

“We’ll learn from this game and put it behind us to get ready for district, and that starts with Wingate on Tuesday.”

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.