ALBUQUERQUE — Magdalena and Cliff are no longer undefeated. Floyd is no longer underrated.
Junior guard Tori Tucker posted 17 points and 10 rebounds, and the upstart Lady Broncos finished a bracket-shattering run through the Class 1A girls state tournament with a 41-36 win over top-seeded Cliff Saturday morning in the finals at The Pit.
Guard Elena Mendoza added eight points and five rebounds for sixth-seeded Floyd (23-7), which never trailed Saturday and upset the top three seeds in Class 1A and accounted for Magdalena and Cliff's only defeats.
It is the school's fourth title, and first since 1990.
“I can’t wait until school Monday,” said a smiling Tucker after sharing a tearful embrace with coach Adam Terry, who played on the 1986 Class 1A champion Floyd boys squad.
“We’ve been together since these seniors were in the sixth grade,” Terry said, noting that sixth-graders were allowed to play on his junior high team. “We’ve been looking forward to this. I played ball with some of their dads.
“They’re not out to get the coach. They’re backing him, and that goes a long way.”
Tucker attributed the win to defense as she, Tanna Whitecotton and Bree Lancaster harassed Cliff senior Mariah Peralta into 6-of-19 shooting.
Through the game’s first 20 minutes, the Cowgirls (30-1) shot 12 percent and pulled down just four offensive rebounds while the Lady Broncos built a 21-10 lead.
"Offensively, rebounding, shooting, everything,” Cowgirls coach Clay Means said. “We just didn’t show up in the first half.”
Though Cliff had tradition, neither team had much in the way of experience in The Pit. Floyd hadn’t been in a title game since its 1990 win, and Cliff’s roster was much different when it finished second to Cimarron in 2007.
“Some of the girls came out pretty tight, and I remember being in that position,” said Peralta, a freshman on that squad. “I was nervous, and I didn’t even play.”
But Tucker, who hit an off-balance putback to end an 8-0 Cliff run with less than two minutes to play, relished the opportunity.
“I play better when I’m nervous,” she said.
The Lady Broncos sealed it when Whitecotton, shooting 1-of-7 to that point, scored on a baseline drive with 43 seconds left for a five-point lead.
“We got passive when they were coming back,” Terry said. “We were standing around on the perimeter too much.”
Means said he told his team the same thing following the loss.
“We had a good season, and we've fought through a lot of adversity,” said Means, who coached Cliff to 1A state titles in 2000 and 2001. “I didn’t want them to remember just one game. I wanted to remember the first 30 as well.”
Floyd had its own adversity, starting near the bottom of the bracket. When asked if he felt the Lady Broncos were underseeded, Terry said he was realistic. Floyd had to be seeded behind two undefeated teams, last year's state runnerup in Des Moines and District 3-1A champion Dora — and be seeded in a manner to avoid quarterfinals between district foes.
Plus, he added, “We didn’t have tradition.”