ALBUQUERQUE — Sophomore Tori Northcutt’s layup with five seconds left pushed Clovis past Gallup 44-40 on Tuesday in the first round of the Class 5A girls state tournament at The Pit.
Brittany Blackmon scored 15 points and Aimee Hilburn added 10 as the second-seed Lady Wildcats (28-0) avoided the first-round upset.
Valerie Kast and Cherelle Rosales scored 10 points each for the seventh-seeded Bengals (17-11), who trailed by as many as 10 points late in the first half.
The 6-foot-7 Kast made it difficult on the Lady Wildcats’ normally potent inside game led by Blackmon and Hilburn.
“I was impressed by her,” Clovis assistant coach Dan Replogle said. “She moved pretty well for her size.
“I’ll tell you what, they had a good defensive scheme. As you know our bread-and-butter is pounding it inside. But I’ll tell you, a 6-7 girl can take that away in a hurry.
The game featured two of the winningest prep girls coaches in the state in Clovis’ Miles Watters and Gallup’s Johnny Lomasney, who have combined to win more than 850 games and 14 state titles.
Gallup pulled to within 42-40 on Renee Dick’s 3-pointer from deep in the corner with 19 seconds to go. Gallup had chance to tie the game or win it with a 3-pointer after Tori Quintana missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Hilburn stole the ball and fed Northcutt to seal the win.
Gallup stunned the Lady Wildcats earlier, jumping out to 10-3 lead behind a pair of short jumper by Kast and a Telishia Joe 3-pointer.
But Clovis rallied behind the scoring of Blackmon and Northcutt and pressure defense that forced 23 turnovers in the game.
Northcutt scored seven points in the second quarter, including a jumper that gave Clovis its biggest lead at 29-19 with 44 seconds left in the half.
Gallup clawed with 35-31 by the end the third quarter, and tied the game at 35 on back-to-back buckets by Kast.
But Clovis responded with a Hilburn jumper and a Quintana 3-pointer and held off one final Bengals’ charge.