Webb Toyota Lady Broncos Invite
By Nicole Baker
Special to the Times
Their evidence: Toppling No. 1 and formerly undefeated Grants in a knock-down, full-scale battle in overtime, 56-54.
With the win, coming in the championship game of the tournament, the Lady Broncos also defended their Webb Toyota Lady Broncos Invite title.
With just 11 seconds remaining on the clock in overtime, Grants' 6-2 sophomore center Tiege Zeller tied the score at 54-54. Zeller finished with a game-high 26 points.
That gave KC the ball for the last shot
Tournament MVP Darla Woody brought the ball down the court and fed the ball to teammate Kalen Henderson, who tallied 12 points on the night.
"I knew she would be there," said Woody, who led KC with 18 points. "So when I saw her, I just passed it."
Without hesitation Henderson turned and knocked down the game winning shot from just outside the paint.
"I knew I would have to just turn and shoot it," she said, adding she had to just trust herself to spin and make the shot. "It was the last seconds and I had to make it count."
In a true battle royale, the championship game saw eight lead changes and six ties. However, the showdown between the top two girls' Class 4A teams didn't look close at the start as Grants came out on fire and Zeller quickly downed three straight inside the paint as the Lady Pirates opened on a 7-0 run.
Woody finally put the Lady Broncos on the board capitalizing on a pair of free throws. Then back-to-back threes from Taylor Billie and Henderson put the Lady Broncos back in the game.
Two more threes from Arnetia Begay and Billie gave KC a narrow advantage at halftime, 22-18.
Woody and Henderson downed some additional big threes in the third quarter to retie the game with 1:23 to go in the third. But Grants also hit their own big threes, and Zeller went off for 10 points inside.
"Both teams really wanted this," Zeller said. "Both teams showed their heart. It was definitely a battle."
The battle continued into the fourth quarter, and with 39.9 seconds remaining Woody knocked down the front end of a pair from the charity stripe to tie the game at 47-all.
It looked like Grants would have the final say, but then with 34 seconds remaining in regulation Grants' Kalleen Shutiva travelled, turning the ball back over to KC.
However, KC was unable to capitalize, sending the game into overtime.
"We needed this challenge," Henderson said.
"It was a great atmosphere," Woody added. "We haven't played a team like that in a while."
With the score tied three times in overtime, once again it was KC with the ball during the final seconds. This time, though, the final shot fell the Lady Broncos way, courtesy of Henderson.
"We got off to a bad start," Henderson admitted, noting the contributions from the bench as one of the big keys in the win. "We were a little nervous, but we pulled through.
"This is what we've been striving for, pushing ourselves every day in practice. We wanted to prove that we are number one and we did that tonight as a team."
"We really came together as a team," she said. "We really played as a team, everyone stepped up."
Kirtland advanced to the championship game with a 66-33 win over Belen in the first round and then a 63-38 win over Shiprock in the semifinals.
Grants knocked out Ignacio in the opening round 70-40 before beating Fruita 48-30 in the semifinals.
Case closed? Or just adjourned until March?
"We just have to show that we're number one at state," Zeller said.
The sophomore tallied 58 points in the tournament.
"We'll definitely be ready for them next time," she said.
The Shiprock Lady Chieftains took third place Saturday with a 35-34 win over Fruita, Colo.
Despite a 21-11 lead at halftime and a 30-19 lead after three quarters, the Lady Chieftains had to hold off a determined Fruita Monument Lady Wildcats squad that rallied to make it a battle to the final seconds.
With 12.2 seconds remaining and scored tied, 34-34, Lady Chieftain Ashley John knocked down the front end on a pair from the charity stripe.
"I thought about it too much," John said. "I felt confident on the first one. I knew I had to get those free throws in."
That ended up being enough as Fruita missed their shot on the other side and players from both teams battled on the floor for the rebound as the buzzer sounded.
"Coach always tells us you have to play to the final buzzer," John added. We had to play hard on defense."
The Thoreau Lady Hawks took the consolation championship with a 47-39 win over Belen Eagles.
Leading just 19-18 at halftime, Tia Tolth tallied six in the third and Alyssa Yazzie tallied six in the fourth to lead Thoreau to the win. Roshawna Yazzie led Thoreau with 10 points on the night.
Mariah Forde scored seven points in the fourth and led the scoring with 13 points for Belen.
Led by 16 points from Pam Cotton, the Ignacio Lady Bobcats edged the Bloomfield Lady Bobcats 39-38 for seventh place Saturday afternoon.
Tiffany Henry led Bloomfield with nine points.