Jon Austria — The Daily TimesKirtland Central’s Keeshawna Ockerman (33) shoots the ball over Belen High School’s Kristian Sainz (24) on
Jon Austria — The Daily Times Kirtland Central's Keeshawna Ockerman (33) shoots the ball over Belen High School's Kristian Sainz (24) on Friday at Kirtland Central High School.
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KIRTLAND — Free throws proved to be the key in Kirtland Central's win against Belen.

The Lady Broncos hit 15-of-22 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter on their way to a 49-42 win against the Lady Eagles in the semifinals of the Webb-Toyota Lady Bronco Invite on Friday in Kirtland.

"I think it's a confidence builder for these kids," said KCHS coach Rochelle Curry. "They go up to the line knowing in a tight situation they can make it when they need to."

KCHS (5-9) controlled the game for most of the first half, taking a 23-14 lead into the locker room, but Belen (7-3) battled back in third quarter to trim the deficit to 32-31 heading into the final quarter.

The Lady Broncos made just one field goal during the final eight minutes, but timely free-throw shooting was enough to get the Lady Broncos the victory.

Shamika Benally had 18 points to lead KCHS, while Keeshawna Ockerman added 14 in the victory.

"A lot of that was free throws," Curry said of Benally's and Ockerman's scoring. "It's great to have different people scoring."

Mariah Forde scored 20 for Belen before fouling out with just less than a minute left in the game.

KCHS advances to the title game, where they'll meet Shiprock for the fourth time this season.

The Lady Chieftains won the previous three meetings by an average of 15.7 points per game.

"I want to get better than we were the night before," Curry said. "Shiprock is doing things right and playing team ball. We're just going to go out and run our game."

Belen will play Grants for third place.

Shiprock 65, Grants 39

For the second time in as many days, Shiprock used a strong second-half performance to pull out a victory.

The Lady Chieftains erased a two-point halftime deficit with a 22-4 run in the third quarter on their way to defeating Grants 65-39 in the semifinals of the Lady Bronco Invite.

"We're trying to find a five that can click," Shiprock head coach Larenson Henderson said of his lineup. "We just started mixing it up to see who had their game."

Shiprock (15-0) started sluggishly and trailed early in the first quarter before the Lady Chiefs' second unit -- led by Shjantel Grey, who scored eight of her game-high 14 points in the opening eight minutes -- sparked a run to open an 18-11 lead.

"That's one thing I'm proud of right now. If you have a second unit that can step up, it gives that first five the momentum when they come back in," Henderson said. "It provides good balance for us."

The Lady Pirates (7-4) battled back with a strong second quarter to take a 26-24 lead into halftime.

In the second half, the Lady Chiefs' defense woke up, holding Grants to just 13 points in the final 16 minutes.

It was the second time in the tournament the Shiprock defense shut down its opponent in the final two quarters. The Lady Chiefs held Fruita Monument, Colo., to just four point in the second half on Thursday.

Tanisha Begay chipped in with 12 points in the victory for Shiprock.

The Lady Chiefs will play in today's title game against Kirtland Central.

Farmington 42, Fruita Monument 36

The Lady Scorpions erased a seven-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to pick up a win against Fruita Monument, Colo., (3-9) in the consolation bracket.

FHS (7-8) scored 21 of the 42 points in the final eight minutes, and hit 10-of-12 from the free-throw line in the final two minutes of the contest to secure the victory.

"That was big for our team, because we haven't really learned how to close games out yet," FHS head coach Danny Secrest said. "I think maybe we've turned the page now."

Tanisha Beetso led FHS with 13 points in the victory, and Shayna Carlowe chipped in 10 more.

FHS will play in the fifth-place game against Ignacio, Colo., today.

The Lady Scorps defeated Ignacio in an earlier meeting 37-32 on Dec. 5 and are 5-0 this season against Colorado high schools.

"It will be big for the girls to come out with two wins," Secrest said.

Ignacio 46, Bloomfield 27

Ignacio scored the opening 10 points against Bloomfield and never relinquished the lead in a consolation bracket matchup.

"It was ugly, and we just came out a little bit flat," said Bloomfield head coach Tom Adair. "Then we got into foul trouble, and we don't really have too deep of a bench."

Bloomfield (3-8) fell behind 15-2 in the first quarter, but was able to trim Ignacio's lead down to six in the second.

After that, Ignacio (2-6) controlled the game to pull away from the Lady Bobcats.

Bloomfield defeated Ignacio 42-38 on Dec. 17 in the previous meeting between the two schools.

"They just came out and took it to us. I give them credit," Adair said of Ignacio.

Bloomfield will face Fruita Monument today in the seventh-place game.

Joshua Perry covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 or Follow him on Twitter @jperrysuu.