PUEBLO - When the outside shots stopped falling for Peyton, the Panthers relied on another of their strengths, albeit far less glamorous than knocking down 3-pointers: shooting free throws.
"Free throws win games," said Peyton senior Vaden Holmes, whose team nailed 17 of 20 shots from the free-throw line in the second half as the Panthers held off a furious Hoehne rally in a 64-55 win early Thursday. "We spend more than half of every practice working on free throws."
Shelby Patterson led all scorers with 24 points - including going 12 of 14 from the line - Emily Green added 13 and Victoria Goodman hit four consecutive 3-pointers on a pivotal 15-0 run in the second quarter, as the Panthers (24-1) reached the 2A semifinal game for the second straight season.
Peyton will meet Yuma or Simla, who played late Thursday, at 4 p.m. Friday at Massari Arena.
Hoehne (22-2) trailed 36-22 at halftime, certainly showing the nerves of playing its first state tournament since 2007.
Things looked bleak after the Farmers gave up five consecutive 3-pointers in a span of 2:02 and trailed 36-18 in the final minute of the first half.
But the Farmers scored the final four points of the second quarter, then continued that momentum into the second half. Sophomore Jordan Trujillo scored four of her team-high 13 points during a 10-0 run to start the third quarter, bringing Hoehne to within 36-30.
Junior Aspen Anderson also scored 13 to lead the Farmers.
"It took us a little bit to get started, but we tried to stay calm and play our game," Anderson said. "We just try to play every game just like a regular game, but we were a little nervous at first."
Last year, Peyton made its state-tournament debut after a three-decade absence and overcame a jittery start to pull away from Sangre de Cristo in the quarterfinals.
This time, the Panthers used that experience and took advantage of the greenhorn Farmers, especially early when Green and Goodman combined for seven 3-pointers, mostly uncontested shots.
"We know how they felt, and they had to play through it," Panthers coach Tony Goodman said. "That's what they did in the first half. But my hat's off to them because they came out and weren't intimidated and played hard until the end. We knew once we got to the free-throw line, we'd be in good shape. We're a good free-throw shooting team."
Hoehne went just 11 of 18 from the free-throw line, including a miss by Cydney Kreutzer that could have tied the game at 50 with 3:51 left.
After that, Patterson made two free throws, and Robyn Barrett hit a short jumper - one of only five Peyton outside shots in the second half - and a pair of free throws that stretched the lead back to 56-49.
Anderson made one free throw, then a 3-pointer to cut the margin to 56-53, but Peyton again answered after beating the Farmers' press for a layup by Aleah Heredia, followed by a Holmes free throw that extended the lead back to six.