BERNALILLO — Fist pump, sigh of relief. Whatever you call it, it’s an Elida win.
Nicole Jasso made the fist pump to her bench after hitting the game-capping free throws in Elida’s early-blowout, near-collapse 55-52 victory over Gallup Catholic Tuesday at Bernalillo High School.
Britnie Powell scored 14 to lead four in double figures for Elida, who will face seventh-seed Des Moines in a 3 p.m. Thursday semifinal at the Santa Ana Star Center. Des Moines scored an upset over No. 2 Cliff, also by a 55-52 margin.
Sophomore guard Reavis Best scored 10 of her 13 points in the first quarter to give Elida (22-8) an early double-digit lead and a seemingly comfortable 34-19 halftime advantage.
“We executed our offense well, and we played good defense in the first half,” and then nervously chuckled as her mind processed the second-half scare. Simply put, the Panthers got hot, and Elida had no answers during a 22-6 run to bridge the third and fourth quarters.
“We kept losing our man in the second half,” Elida coach Dan Howard said. “They were putting a lot of screens on us. We got to standing around and watching, and we couldn’t stop the floodgates.”
The lead changed four times in the fourth, with three ties. Elida took the lead for good with two minutes left as sophomore Margo Ortiz drew a foul on a coast-to-coast transition drive and then hit 1-of-2 free throws.
“We could have folded,” Howard said, “but we held our ground.”
Jasso’s 12 points included the final four points of a fourth-quarter.
“We’ve had so many of these moments,” Jasso said. “It’s my senior year, and I wasn’t going down without a fight.”
Jasso gave Elida a 53-50 lead on a layup with 25.8 to go, then sealed it at the line two possessions later and pumped her fists toward her bench.
“When that (first free throw) went in,” Jasso said, “my thought was, ‘We’re going to win this.’”
Indeed. After she sunk the second with 2.3 seconds left, the Panthers (24-5) couldn’t get off a desperation half-court for a chance at overtime.
Even though only five Elida players scored — junior forward Morgan McBride added 11— Howard thought younger players made key contributions, including Shealton Veo stepping in whenever Best had foul trouble.
“The bench played really well for us tonight,” Howard said. “They played the way they could, gave us some quality minutes.”
Odessa Yazzie scored 17 to lead Gallup Catholic.