Here are some things to watch in Thursday's girls basketball state semifinals matchups
Piedra Vista defense must limit points in paint, fast-break buckets
Volcano Vista dropped 30 points in the paint and 12 fast-break points in its 58-40 5A quarterfinals win over Centennial on Tuesday.
PV must swarm the inner passing lanes and force Volcano Vista into taking contested or ill-timed 3-pointers.
That way, the Lady Panthers can snag easy boards and set up transition scoring chances.
That approach worked for PV in its 68-51 5A quarterfinals win over Farmington on Tuesday, and Volcano Vista’s only major shooting threats for now are Jaelyn Bates and Natalia Chavez. Bates and Chavez combined for 37 points.
If Piedra Vista gets stops around the basket, it’ll be on the fast track toward its first state finals in program history.
Can Navajo Prep contain West Las Vegas duo?
WLV’s Briana Marquez and Skylin Morgan scored a combined 33 points on 55 percent shooting en route to a 60-47 Class 3A quarterfinal win over Hatch Valley on Tuesday.
They’re seizing chances to get to the basket, as well as the free throw line. The duo shot a combined 10-of-17 from the charity stripe.
The Lady Eagles are fresh off another stellar defensive outing in Tuesday’s 67-55 Class 3A quarterfinal win over Tucumcari, tallying 19 steals.
The Lady Eagles have plenty of quick, active and instinctive guards that can swipe at the ball and take off the other way.
Eight Prep players recorded steals on Tuesday. Four of those players (Laila Charley, Hailey Martin, Tai Tai Woods and Amber Garcia) had at least three steals each.
Prep, which eyes its first state title since 2009, has to take away driving lanes and minimize the damage Marquez and Morgan can do.
Kirtland Central becoming battle-tested when it matters
The Lady Broncos got off to a fast start on defense using their full-court press Tuesday against Gallup, and KC withstood a late rally.
Gallup quickly made it a one-possession game in the second half, and did so multiple times.
However, Kirtland didn't panic and set up good shots and hit some big free throws in the final minute.
Kirtland will brace for another tough task in 2018 state champion Portales.
Consider Tuesday a blessing in disguise for Kirtland. When things got tough, the Lady Broncos didn't fold.
This year's 4A semifinals matchups feature three girls basketball powers and a rising program in Highland.
Kirtland eyes not only back-to-back state finals appearances, but also its first blue trophy since 2012.
Tuesday’s girls quarterfinals scores
Piedra Vista 68, Farmington 51
Navajo Prep 67, Tucumcari 55
Kirtland Central 61, Gallup 54
Clayton 63, Newcomb 51
Thursday’s girls semifinals schedule
Piedra Vista vs. Volcano Vista, 9:45 a.m. at Dreamstyle Arena
Navajo Prep vs. West Las Vegas, 9:45 a.m. at Santa Ana Star Center
Kirtland Central vs. Portales, 11:30 a.m. at Dreamstyle Arena
Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 and on Twitter at @MattH_717.
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