Coal Ridge’s Cinderella run spoiled by Olathe |

Coal Ridge’s Cinderella run spoiled by Olathe

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

FORT COLLINS, Colorado – Last week’s upset win over Eaton had Coal Ridge girls basketball coach Rick Schmitz dreaming about a potential trip to Fort Collins.

This likely was not what he envisioned.

While Schmitz’s 27th-seeded Titans – the lone double-digit seed in the girls’ field at the 3A Great Eight at Colorado State University – were mere minutes from prolonging their improbable run through the bracket, they could not overcome their shooting woes in Thursday’s state quarterfinals against Olathe.

Coal Ridge missed 44 of 54 shot attempts and hit just one field goal during the fourth quarter. The third-seeded Pirates closed with a flurry, outscoring the Titans 17-5 in the final eight minutes en route to a 40-25 victory.

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Olathe (25-0), which picked up its fourth win over Coal Ridge this season, will play the winner of Thursday night’s quarterfinal game between No. 2 Holy Family and No. 7 Brush in today’s state semifinals. The Titans (13-12) will take on the loser of that game at 11:45 a.m. today in consolation-bracket play.

“We were close,” Coal Ridge senior Sam Wilson said. “We sure fought. That’s all you can ask for.”

“We always feel like we can beat anybody,” added teammate Tori Verdieck, choking back tears. “It feels great to be here. We all felt we should be here.”

That was clear during the first three quarters, as the Titans went toe to toe with Olathe in a game light on offense but heavy on drama.

Despite shooting 23 percent in the first half, Coal Ridge led 14-13 at the break. The prime reason was its 22-10 rebounding edge, which generated scores of second-chance opportunities.

The Pirates capitalized on 11 first-half Titans turnovers to keep pace. Kylie Tait scored in transition three times during the first quarter.

Verdieck paced Coal Ridge with five first-quarter points. The senior was relegated to the bench, however, after picking up her second foul four minutes before halftime.

Olathe took advantage, routinely dumping the ball to Emily Brummit down low. She scored off the glass, then converted a three-point play in succession to trim the Pirates’ deficit to 13-11 with little more than a minute remaining.

Neither team led by more than five during the first 16 minutes.

“There were a lot of things [that contributed to the sluggish start]. It was early morning, it was our first time playing here. There were jitters and everything,” Olathe head coach Paul Althaus said. “I could tell we were not shooting with confidence.”

The offensive struggles continued during a tight third quarter in which the two teams exchanged the lead three times.

After Morgan Stansberry nailed a long jumper to give the Pirates an 18-16 lead – their first since the game’s opening minute – with three minutes remaining, Wilson answered with two of her team-high 12 points.

Later, teammate Chasity Gonzales banked home an acrobatic runner in the lane to square the game at 20.

Olathe seized the momentum soon after, however. Stansberry, who was fouled on an attempted shot behind the arc with 37 seconds remaining, calmly sank three free throws to give the Pirates a 23-20 lead heading to the fourth.

Tawni Middleton extended that advantage to six with a 3 in the opening minute of the final quarter, prompting a Coal Ridge timeout.

Schmitz was forced to stop play again little more than two minutes later, after his team’s deficit had ballooned to eight.

“I tried to slow things down and get our guys regrouped,” the coach said. “Olathe had an excellent fourth. … We didn’t get a lot of good looks [down the stretch], and we couldn’t knock down the ones we had.”

The Pirates had no such trouble, particularly from the foul line. They converted nine of 14 from the charity stripe during the final eight minutes, and 17 of 22 in the game.

The Titans shot 18.5 percent and committed 20 turnovers.

“You have to give them credit. They pulled out [ahead] and did a great job,” Wilson said. “But we never gave up.”

Stansberry made eight of nine free-throw attempts and finished with a game-high 14 points. Teammates Tait and Brummitt finished with eight and nine, respectively.

Wilson and Verdieck pulled down 21 rebounds for the Titans, who gave Olathe its biggest scare in the regular season; the Pirates escaped with a 44-43 overtime home win Jan. 23.

Coal Ridge was bidding for a third consecutive upset victory. After shocking host Eaton – the 32-team playoffs’ sixth seed – last Friday, the Titans topped No. 22 Salida in Saturday’s sub-region final to advance to Moby Arena.

Thursday’s loss does little to diminish this season’s accomplishments, Schmitz said.

“I told the girls we were proud of them no matter what,” he added. “This has been the most memorable few weeks I’ve ever had as a coach … because it so was unexpected.”

“This has been an amazing experience. We’re taking it all in and trying to get as much out of it as we can,” Wilson said. “And we’re not done yet. We’ll still be fighting tomorrow.”

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