Lady Panthers hold off KC in 59-54 OT thriller

Karl Schneider

FARMINGTON — The Piedra Vista and Kirtland Central girls basketball team gave their fans a show tonight at the Jerry A. Conner Fieldhouse.

Piedra Vista's Dani Russo blocks Kirtland Central's Avery Begay, front, on Tuesday at the Jerry A. Conner Fieldhouse.

The two teams traded runs throughout regulation, needing overtime to decide a winner. In the end, the Lady Panthers prevailed, escaping with a 59-54 victory.

Overtime was nothing short of a war between the two teams. The four-minute stanza saw two lead changes, three ties and clutch performances from each side.

With the game tied at 51, PV’s Alexis Long drained a 3-pointer from the right corner to give the Lady Panthers the lead. PV didn’t give up the lead back, thanks largely to Long and Naomi Smith, who scored 7 of her 10 points in overtime.

In overtime, Long and Smith hit six of eight free throws.

“We know that we’re a great free throw-shooting team, and (Saturday) night when we shot under 50 percent, we talked about it, and it was unacceptable. At practice, we refocused and started doing some form shooting, and it paid off for us tonight.”

PV started the game on a 9-0 run and built an 18-9 lead, thanks to a scoring flurry from junior Ellyce Reed, who scored 11 points in the first nine minutes of action.

“Ellyce’s been like that her whole career. She’s a streaky shooter, and when she gets on a streak, she’s unconscious,” Reed said. “It gave us a big boost, and got everyone energized.”

The Lady Broncos struggled against PV’s full-court press in the first half, turning the ball over regularly. But after PV’s hot start in the first quarter, the Lady Panthers’ shooting cooled and allowed KC to cut the deficit to 25-22 at halftime.

KC’s struggles in the first half did not carry over to the start of the third. The Lady Broncos came out for the third quarter on fire, getting a pair of 3-pointers from Avery Begay as part of an 11-0 run that gave KC its first lead of the game.

“The third quarter, we came out and broke the press like we know we’re capable of doing, and we were able to make a run,” KC coach John Zecca said. “We slowed things down on offense, and the girls were able to see things a little better instead of rushing everything.”

But like PV’s hot start in the first quarter, KC’s barrage of buckets slowed midway through the third quarter, and PV battled back to tie the game at 36 heading to the fourth quarter.

Kirtland Central's Talia Ockerman converts a layup against Piedra Vista on Tuesday at the Jerry A. Conner Fieldhouse.

PV gained a 46-45 advantage — its first lead since 25-24 in the opening minute of the third quarter — after a pair of free throws from Kristi Lee Bennie with 1:19 remaining.

PV got the ball with 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter after a KC miss deflected off of the hands of a Lady Bronco and out of bounds. Reed put the ball in sophomore Alexis Long’s hands for the potential game-winner.

Long moved the ball up the floor against KC’s pressure, made a move to get a step on her defender and put up a runner from about 10 feet away. But the shot narrowly missed, spinning in and out to send the game to overtime.

Long led PV with 13 points, followed by Reed with 11.

Haile Gleason led KC with 25 points, 13 of which came in the fourth quarter and overtime.

PV will be off until Dec. 1, when the Lady Panthers meet Farmington in the first round of the Jerry Richardson Invitational in Shiprock.

KC will also be off until Dec. 1, when the team heads to Page, Ariz., for the Lady Sand Devils' holiday tourney. KC’s opponent at the tourney has not be determined.

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