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Lady Broncos withstand a furious fourth-quarter rally, hang on to win 61-54 Tuesday at Dreamstyle Arena in Albuquerque. Farmington Daily Times

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ALBUQUERQUE — Kirtland Central's quest to return to the 4A championship game came dangerously close to ending in Tuesday’s quarterfinals.

Kirtland dominated the first half against Gallup, saw its lead evaporate in the third quarter and then regrouped before in the fourth to win 61-54 at Dreamstyle Arena.

How it happened

KC’s defense forced 15 turnovers in the first half, with three steals, turning three fast breaks into six easy points and were able to go 7-for-16 (44 percent) from the field including 4-for-8 from distance.

The Lady Broncos struggled on their free throws, going 5-for-9 (56 percent), but were able to limit their turnovers to about half of what Gallup coughed up with eight. 

Kirtland's bench was responsible for 11 points in the first half while all of Gallup's first half scoring was done by its five starters.

Turning point

Kirtland started the second half with a 32-23 lead, saw it evaporate in the first 90 seconds of the third quarter.

Gallup forced turnover after turnover and went on an 8-0 run, prompting Kirtland coach Devon Manning to call a timeout.

On the ensuing scoring possession, Kirtland's Melanie Yazzie appeared to have her layup attempt blocked, but the referees called a foul on Gallup.

She went 1-of-2 from the line to put her team up by two.

The two teams traded buckets throughout the quarter with Kirtland holding a 42-39 lead before heading into the final period.

Kirtland’s Tatelyn Manheimer drained two consecutive 3s to put her team up 49-41 with five minutes left. Another trey by Yazzie put Kirtland up 52-44, but Gallup answered back with a long distance shot of its own.

Manheimer came through again with another trey to give KC a 55-50 lead. 

With both teams missing their next few shots, Manning called a timeout with 1:23 left, resulting in Gallup intentionally fouling the Lady Broncos on two consecutive possessions. Gallup then forced a five-second violation.

A basket made by Gallup’s Jordan Hanley cut the deficit to 55-53 with 1:06 left, but Gallup was forced to foul.

KC’s Aisha Ramone made both shots to put her team up 57-53, and she later hit two more key free throws to help Kirtland secure the win.

Gallup’s season ended at 22-9.

Stat leaders

Mangeimer finished with 16 points. Candace Patterson scored 14 for Kirtland and Melanie Yazzie rounded out the double digit scoring with 10 for the Lady Broncos.

Gallup was led by Jordan Joe's 19 points. Jordan Hanley added 17 for the Lady Tigers.

What's next

The Lady Broncos face Portales in the 4A semifinals at 11:30 a.m. Thursday. Portales defeated Bernalillo earlier in the day, 63-54.

Matthew Asher covers sports for the Carlsbad Current-Argus. He can be reached at 575-628-5524, masher@currentargus.com or @Caveman_Masher on Twitter.

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