Rams open districts with a heartbreaker
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
CARBONDALE, Colorado – The final 22 seconds of Tuesday’s 3A Western Slope League district tournament game in Carbondale were a blur for Gunnison girls basketball coach Kevin Mickelson.
So much so that he wasn’t even sure Alyssa Nelson hit the game-winning shot.
“She did make the shot, right?” the coach asked. “That was the game-winner, wasn’t it? That last 22 seconds was an eternity, I’ll tell you that.”
Nelson’s short shot off the glass found net with 22 seconds left, lifting Mickelson’s Cowboys to a 33-31 win in the district tournament quarterfinals.
Gunnison will face Olathe in Friday’s semifinals at Palisade High School.
Roaring Fork drops into the consolation half of the bracket and will host Aspen Thursday at 6 p.m. The winner advances to the fifth-place game with a chance to nab the 3A WSL’s final state playoff berth.
The shots just weren’t falling for the Rams, who dropped to 12-8 overall. Roaring Fork shot at a 9-for-46 clip from the field for the night.
“We were getting the looks we wanted,” said Rams coach Kirk Cheney, who saw his team’s eight-game winning streak snapped. “The kids are a little down right now. … We won eight in a row. That’s a pretty good run. You’re going to get knocked down some time.”
Regardless of what happens in the coming days, Roaring Fork has enjoyed a remarkable turnaround under Cheney, who returned as the program’s head coach this season after a three-year hiatus. The Rams won two games last season and none the season before that.
“It’s a true testament to his girls believing in him and believing in the system,” Mickelson said. “I think it’s tremendous. … I have nothing but respect for the Roaring Fork girls. We were fortunate to come out on top.”
Just as the final score indicated, Tuesday’s game was a back-and-forth affair.
The Rams led 10-7 after a quarter, only to see the Cowboys charge back to take a 16-14 halftime lead. The visitors extended that advantage to 26-23 by the end of the third quarter.
Gunnison pushed its lead to 31-25 with a three-point play by Jordan Wallin with 4 minutes, 19 seconds left.
Roaring Fork surged back to tie it at 31 with a free throw by Hattie Gianinetti, two more freebies by Megan Gianinetti, a steal and resulting layup by Shaeley Lough and a free throw by Maddie Nieslanik.
But Nelson and the Cowboys struck last, converting the game-winner roughly 49 seconds after Nieslanik’s foul shot.
“We had confidence coming into this game,” said Nelson, whose team suffered a 42-38 loss to Roaring Fork back on Jan. 28. “We knew we had improved since the last time we played them. We just felt confident coming into this game that we could keep up.”
Nelson led Gunnison (7-13) with 16 points.
Megan Gianinetti paced the Rams with 16. Nieslanik finished with eight points.
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.