RIO RANCHO — There’s only one thing that fired up Antiesha Brown more Tuesday night than Gallup’s boisterous crowd.
Shutting them up.
Brown exploded for 23 of her game-high 35 in the second half, carrying Clovis to a 67-57 win over the Lady Bengals in Tuesday’s Class 5A quarterfinal at the Santa Ana Star Center.
The Texas Tech-bound forward scored 19 straight during a key second-half stretch for Clovis (24-4), which moves on to Thursday’s 1:15 p.m. semifinal against top-seeded Eldorado, also at the Star Center.
However, beating back the Gallup crowd might not have been possible, Clovis coach Jeff Reed said, had the Lady Wildcats not faced the Lady Bengals in December’s Gallup Invitational title game. It was a 70-66 loss where Clovis led most of the way but had a “deer in the headlights look” as the Lady Cats let it slip away late.
“This time, they didn’t have that,” Reed said. “We did better handling the pressure.”
While everybody handled the pressure, Brown and Ashlee Pierson handled the scoring. The seniors combined for 32 of Clovis’ 34 second-half points.
The Lady Wildcats led for the final 26 minutes, but had to fight off a series of Lady Bengals runs throughout the night. Reed said the game just came down to Clovis making the last run.
“I knew when we got that lead near the end, Gallup would have to press,” Reed said, “and it’s really hard to press Antiesha and Ashlee Pierson. “
The momentum swung Clovis’ way for good with four minutes to play. Gallup coach Kamau Turner wanted to call a timeout with his team down four, but Brown picked off a pass near midcourt, streaked in for the easy layup and hit 1-of-2 from the line after Turner picked up a technical foul.
Brown went 12-of-15 from the field and 11-of-16 from the free throw line, all chances for her to temporarily quiet the Lady Bengals faithful.
“That was the best part, especially the free throws,” Brown said. “They get all riled up, and then get quiet.”
Turner knew to expect that kind of outburst from Brown, but said his squad didn’t deny her the ball or attack her on defense enough to pick up cheap fouls.
“I know you hear about the Albuquerque kids because they’re in Albuquerque,” Turner said. “That’s the best player in the state.
“You’ve got to get the ball out of her hands. If you don’t get the ball out of her hands, she’s going to put it in the hole.”
It’s Brown’s second time scoring 35 this season against the Lady Bengals (23-6), and fourth time this season.
“I’ll let her have 35 every night,” he joked.
Alannah Spencer scored 11 to lead a balanced Gallup effort, while Jeryn Wilson added 10.