RIO RANCHO — Amaris Newkirk scored four of her game-high 29 points in overtime, and the Des Moines Demons survived a late Elida comeback to post a 69-64 win Thursday night at the Santa Ana Star Center.
The Demons will go for their fifth state championship, and first since 2004, against top-seeded Cimarron. The Bears (25-1) defeated Animas 61-48 in Thursday’s other semifinal.
Des Moines (20-8) seemed destined to coast after taking a 21-9 lead early in the second quarter, but needed the extra four minutes after Reavis Best hit a pair of 3-pointers in the final 1:30.
Elida trailed 60-48 with five minutes left, but Best led a furious comeback in the final minutes. She hit a high-arcing right-corner trey to cut it to 60-59. After Cassidy Doherty hit a pair of free throws with 33.6 to play, Elida ran a double-screen off a timeout and Best hit a 3-pointer above the key against tight defense from Doherty.
“I had my hand in her face and everything,” said Doherty, whose quickness gave Elida (22-8) fits all game, as Best could attest.
“She was tough, she’s a great basketball player,” said the 5-foot-8 guard, who finished with 15 points on 4-of-18 shooting. “She made me work for everything I got.”
Doherty, who had two older brothers reach the state championship game, has been a key throughout the season, Demons coach Lyndel Bonds said.
“I think Cassidy’s quickness has caused problems for a lot of people,” Bonds said. “She’s a quick on-ball defender; she’s got very active hands and quick feet.”
While Doherty was creating problems on defense, Newkirk gave the Lady Tigers problems on offense all night. She outscored Elida 8-7 in the first stanza and finished 12-of-21 from the field with a game-high 15 rebounds.
Senior Nicole Jasso provided steady offense throughout the night, but coach Dan Howard thought the Lady Tigers just put themselves in too many tough situations.
“We let them get out early,” Howard said. “We kept trying for a comeback, gave it back to them; got back in it, gave it back to them. We had our chances. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
Newkirk and Jasso traded baskets to open overtime, but Des Moines took the lead for good on a Newkirk buck with 1:36 to play and sealed it when the younger sister, junior Myra Newkirk, got open for a layup against a trapping Elida defense.
With Cimarron-Animas a few hours away, the Demons were openly rooting the top-ranked Bears would come through. Three of Des Moines’ eight defeats came during their District 1-1A rival’s current 15-game streak.
“We want to show we play great basketball in our corner of the state,” Bonds said.
Meanwhile, Elida loses Jasso and Morgan McBride, and will rebuild from their junior high. The Tigers have 33 students in grades 9-12 and have no JV girls team, but Howard says the feeder system’s still good.
“We’ve got some good girls coming up,” Howard said. “We’ve got some seventh-graders who are going to be eighth-graders next year; they’re getting thrown right into the fire.”