The top two seeds in the Class 5A girls high school state basketball tournament earned convincing semifinal victories in the Pit on Thursday and advanced to a final-round showdown at 7:30 tonight.
In the first game Thursday, second-seeded Roswell pulled away from defending champion Los Lunas with an 11-2 run midway in the third period en route to a 21-point win. In the later semi, No. 1 Gallup stayed unbeaten with a 20-point win over Española Valley.
No. 2 ROSWELL 57, No. 3 LOS LUNAS 36: Jaedyn De La Cerda scored a game-high 22 points, including three 3s in the first quarter, to lead the Coyotes (26-2) past the Tigers (23-8).
Roswell opened a 31-17 lead late in the first half and then weathered a 7-0 Los Lunas run before finding easy passage to the rim in outscoring the Tigers 26-12 the rest of the way.
This season marks the first time in four years Los Lunas won’t reach the final. Coach Marty Zeller’s team won the crown in 2013 and 2015.
“I believe this game came down to one thing — rebounds,” Zeller said of the Coyotes’ 30-14 edge. “That’s unheard of to have only 14.”
Also close to being unheard of was De La Cerda’s 9-for-9 shooting from the field.
“That’s probably the first time ever,” she said of having a perfect game shooting.
In the early going, Roswell found it difficult to penetrate Los Lunas’ defense and relied on 3-point shooting, going 5-for-7 in the first half with only two 2-point field goals.
But in the second half, the Coyotes didn’t attempt any from long range and consistently scored inside.
“We just had too many miscommunications on defense and getting caught in no-man’s land,” Zeller said.
Jordan Holland led Los Lunas with 15 points.
Roswell coach Joe Carpenter said De La Cerda’s early barrage, from well beyond the arc, played a big role in the Coyotes’ success late in the game.
“There’s no doubt Jaedyn opened up the whole offense for us,” Carpenter said.
This will be the fourth trip to the finals in the past eight seasons for Carpenter and the Coyotes. They finished as runners-up in 2009, 2012 and 2013.
“If you ask me if I want to win (a title), heck, yeah I want to win,” Carpenter said. “Does it define me? No. I’m a dad and father first, a husband and then coach.”
LOS LUNAS (23-8): Mica Jenrette 5, Jordan Holland 15, Cera Chavez 11, Hayley Torres 2, Ashley Blackwell 3. Totals 10-FG 12-17-FT 36.
ROSWELL (26-2): Kaitlyn Holl 10, Melanie Martinez 3, Sheyanne Sandoval 3, Jaedyn De La Cerda 22, Gali Sanchez 11, Alexis Angeles 6, Valeria Bonilla 2. Totals 19-FG 14-17-FT 57.
Los Lunas 11 3 5 17—36
Roswell 11 8 12 26—57
3-Point FG: LL 4 (Holland 3, Blackwell); R 5 (De La Cerda 3, Martinez 1, Sandoval 1). Team Fouls: LL 16; R 19. Fouled Out: LL, Jenrette.
No. 1 GALLUP 53, No. 4 ESPAÑOLA VALLEY 33: Two days after the Bengals (28-0) eked past ninth-seeded Piedra Vista by three points in the quarters, they were in control almost the whole way in ousting the Sundevils (25-5) from the tourney for the third straight year.
Gallup senior post Ni’Asia Mcintosh led the way, having game highs of 24 points and 14 rebounds.
“I thought we played well defensively,” said Bengals coach Kamau Turner, who led Gallup to a title in 2011. “I thought that might have been about the best job, or one of the best jobs, we’ve done all year.”
Sundevils coach Cindy Roybal said her team came out complacent.
“We were totally out of character, and I think we used all our shots against Los Alamos,” she said of a 79-52 win in the quarterfinals, “because nothing was falling. But Gallup is a good team, and they’re ranked No. 1 for a reason. But I have a good team, too, and I’m extremely proud of my girls.”
Kaitlyn Romero led Española with 14 points and Alexis Lovato had 12, but the team faltered from long range. The Sundevils, who set a girls state record with 16 3-pointers in a game against Belen in January, went 0-for-12 from distance Thursday.
Helping to torment the ‘Devils were Deerae Torrez (8 points), Kalisha Kinsel (7), Rhiannon Singer (6) and Camille Etsitty (5).
Turner said the fact that his squad is making this run through the tournament as an undefeated team isn’t making the journey extra special.
“Not really,” he said. “We don’t talk about it. We just want to be state champs. I want to give these kids a state championship.”
“We really want it,” she said. “I really want it. The seniors really want it.”
ESPANOLA VALLEY (25-5): Leah DeAguero 2, Alycia Archibeque 2, Kaitlyn Romero 14, Joselinn Rascon 3, Alexis Lovato 12. Totals 14-FG 5-8-FT 33.
GALLUP (28-0): Kalisha Kinsel 7, Deerae Torrez 8, Leona Smith 1, Camille Etsitty 5, Samantha Quigley 2, Rhiannon Singer 6, Ni’asia Mcintosh 24. Totals 21-FG 8-10-FT 53.
Española Valley 8 9 6 10—33
Gallup 12 14 20 7—53
3-Point FG: G 3 (Kinsel, Torrez 2). Team Fouls: EV 10; G 10.