The collective sigh of relief Thursday from inside the Clovis West High gym came when San Diego's Tia Dixon was finally banished from the court.
The roar of elation followed 2:25 later, when the second-seeded Golden Eagles secured their place in the CIF Southern California Regional girls basketball semifinals for only the second time.
Clovis West made 9 of 13 free throws in the fourth quarter and got a key 3-pointer from Katie Ogdon to hold off San Diego 65-59 in a Division I quarterfinal.
The Golden Eagles (26-4) will host Santa Monica at 7 p.m. Saturday for a berth in the regional final. Clovis West has been stopped short of the semifinals each of the past four seasons.
"I'm so excited for our team," said Clovis West's Brianna Orlich, who scored 15 points. "We're just going to keep going. We work so hard defensively, I think we are capable of going all the way. We aren't intimidated by anyone."
It was the lightning-quick sophomore Dixon who carried and cursed her team all at the same time. She left the game after picking up her third foul with 3:44 to play in the first half, taking coach Lonnie Jones with her, permanently, as he was ejected for arguing the call.
The Cavers (29-6) trailed by four when Dixon left. She returned midway through the third quarter and helped San Diego get back into the game after falling behind by nine points.
"She's phenomenal, the fastest kid we played this year," Clovis West coach Craig Campbell said. "I cringed watching her on tape hoping we could stop her."
After watching its lead dwindle to as little as three on a Dixon basket to open the fourth quarter, Clovis West began to build its lead back up with Janae Coffee hitting 6 of 8 free throws in an 8-2 run.
Then Ogdon, who admittedly had an off shooting night in a 84-53 win over Taft on Tuesday, hit her fifth 3-pointer to put Clovis West up 60-50 with 3:32 left.
"I wasn't very hot last game," said Ogdon, who finished with 19 points. "But coach told me if you have an off game, your next one will be your best. I'm glad I kept shooting it."
Dixon kept San Diego's hopes alive with five quick points to cut the deficit to 62-55, but she picked up her fifth foul with 2:25 to play after scoring 21 points in only a handful of minutes.
With Dixon out of the game, the Golden Eagles got a free throw from Ogdon and a basket from Orlich down the stretch to keep San Diego at bay.
"On the tapes I saw, we saw a lot of chippiness out of them," Campbell said. "We just had to keep our composure. They are a young team. We hoped that it would be a close game and they would make some mistakes."