Grand Valley girls basketball off to state: Cardinals defense proves stout in 57-28 win over Colorado Academy
A ladder, scissors and net have never been sweeter.
Stingy defense and accurate offense fueled fourth-ranked Grand Valley girls basketball to a whopping 57-28 win over 20th-ranked Colorado Academy in Parachute on Saturday.
The Class 3A Regional victory now sends the 20-4 Cardinals to the state tournament. They tip-off against 12th-ranked St. Mary’s at the University of Denver on March 10.
Saturday’s bout saw the Cardinals play physical hosts to the Mustangs. Junior AbbyRose Parker and sophomore Jaycee Pittman teamed up to draw six shooting fouls out of Colorado Academy’s 19 total team fouls.
Parker led Grand Valley with 20 points.
“I think we were all pretty nervous for that game, and we handled our nerves really well,” Parker said after joining teammates for the traditional net cutting. “We came out and executed what we needed to execute.”
The Cardinals’ formidable performance, however, still needed to fend off at least two major Mustangs scoring runs in the first half.
Mustangs sophomore Naomi Wolff, who led Colorado Academy with 8 points, quickly drew first blood with a three-point bucket at 7:29 in the first quarter. Wolff then made a strong move to the hoop for a well-fought layup a couple minutes later, putting the Mustangs up 7-4.
But the Mustangs’ lead turned short lived as Parker drained a three-pointer in the corner, tying the game 7-7 at 2:45. A forced turnover just seconds later led to Pittman hitting one of two shots at the free throw line, giving the Cardinals their first lead of the day, 8-7.
Seconds before the end of the first frame, Parker hit another three-pointer. She’d end the game with four buckets beyond the arc.
“I think today everyone was really focused just subconsciously that we need to play defense, we need to do the little things,” Parker said. “It’s always the little things that turn into the big things.”
Grand Valley kept coming up big in the second quarter, only this time it was senior Bailey Radel sending the crowd wild with a three-pointer at the 7-minute mark. Radel, who chipped in 19 points, ended the game with five three-point field goals.
“I try to get a lot of work into the gym,” Radel said. “I try to come in early before practice starts and just get my shots up and try to be consistent throughout the course of the season.”
After the Cardinals outscored the Mustangs 14-12 in the second quarter, they went into halftime up 26-19. Radel then came out in the third quarter and netted two consecutive three-pointers between the 7:20 and 5:43 marks.
The Cardinals continued to pressure the Mustangs for the rest of the second half, causing more turnovers and hitting five of six buckets on three more trips to the stripe.
Radel hit her final shot from downtown with 4:20 left in the fourth quarter, placing the Cardinals at a comfortable 50-27 lead.
“It was intense, but our team held their composure and we worked together just to get that win,” Radel said. “It feels great.”
Cardinals head coach Scott Parker acknowledged his team’s tough paint presence, saying, “We played defense with our feet today.”
“We were able to stay in front of them, and that opened up our transition,” he said. “I thought our girls did a real good job on the boards too, limiting (the Mustangs) to one shot.”
On the other end, Parker highlighted the Cardinals’ ball movement as a key factor behind their offensive production.
“We stress playing inside-out basketball,” Parker said. “When you limit the team to one shot, you’re able to get out and transition and get some fast-break points.”
Grand Valley headed into Saturday’s game fresh from a 60-51 first-round regional win over 29th-ranked Buena Vista on Friday.
March 10’s Great 8 showdown against St. Mary’s means the Cardinals will have to outdo a team boasting a 20-4 overall, 12-1 conference record, as well as averaging 67.6 points, 27.4 rebounds, 18 assists, 16.8 steals and 2.8 blocks per game.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals are averaging 52.3 team points, 27.8 rebounds, 10.3 assists, 14.8 steals and 2.7 blocks per game. They head into next week with a 20-4 overall, 5-2 conference record.
“We’ve been playing great basketball here for about the last month, and I’m happy for the girls,” Parker said. “They put the work in in the off-season, and it’s showing.”
COAL RIDGE OUT
After skating through the first round with a 45-43 win over Resurrection Christian on Friday, the Titans were eliminated from the 3A Regionals on Saturday.
Facing second-ranked University, the 15th-ranked Titans suffered a 48-22 loss in Greeley.
University came out smoking, outscoring the Titans 29-9 in the first half. The only offensive spark the Titans saw came via 10 points in the fourth quarter.
The Titans ended the 2021-22 season at 13-7 overall (4-3 conference record). It was the final basketball game in a Titans jersey for two seniors, Railey Largent and Clara Carranza.
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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