Basalt advances state hoop quarterfinals
Yes, it’s for real.
An argument about Pam Mayer’s 3-point field basket at the end of the game delayed the celebration a few moments, but the Basalt girls have reached the Class 3A girls basketball state quarterfinals.
The dream became reality as the Longhorns took a 63-47 win over Pagosa Springs Friday, sealing the victory on a 6-0 fourth quarter spurt after the Pirates had narrowed Basalt’s lead to six points.
As the buzzer sounded, the team embraced each other to share a tear-filled moment of joy, which for some of the team took four years to obtain.
Senior Molly McGrath played Longhorn varsity the past four seasons, and knows all about Basalt’s past frustrations in the playoffs. She’s witnessed her team stumble out of the state playoffs by the second round the past three years.
So it figured she would be among the most elated about the team’s reaching the elite eight.
“I’m so happy,” said the Longhorn point guard. “This is the first time in 13 years we’re going to the state playoffs.”
The hardest part McGrath said about the win is the wait between games.
“That’s going to definitely hard,” she said of the time span between Friday’s win and Thursday’s quarterfinal contest against the Centauri Falcons of La Jara at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
“Going to state is a part of history at Basalt High School, so I’m probably not going to pay attention in my classes this week,” McGrath said.
It might be just as hard for the school’s faculty to focus on teaching. Considering a Longhorn girls team has not been at the state tournament since 1989, most of the school’s teachers will probably develop a case of state playoff fever along with their students this week.
Basalt took control midway in the first quarter, overtaking the Pirates’ scant 8-7 lead at the four-minute mark.
The Longhorns never trailed again.
They took an eight-point lead after the first quarter, raised the lead to nine points by halftime, and were up 44-37 at the end of the third period.
Junior Mariah Mulcahy scored a career-high 29 points, while Autumn Caughern kept the Pirate defense off-balance with three of her 13 points coming beyond the three-point line.
However, Longhorn coach Debbie Alcorta said it was the team’s work on defense that won the game.
“Our full-court press tore them apart at the beginning,” she said.. “In the first three minutes…we threw everything at them, and we had them gasping for breath.”
Initially, Basalt’s press worked so well it forced Pagosa Springs coach Karen Wells to change ballhandlers.
Forward Katie Lancing took over the point guard duties from Nicole Buckley, and the switch caused Basalt some problems before Alcorta assigned Stephanie Kemp the job of guarding the 6-foot-1 senior.
“She’s an incredible player,” Alcorta said of Lancing. “She’s a lot like Mariah, but she’s a lot bigger.”
Lancing finished with 19 points. But, more importantly, Kemp stopped Lansing’s unheeded drives through the lane, which in turn halted Pagosa Springs’ main offensive force, 6-foot-3 center Ashley Gronewaller.
Gronewaller took a 19 point per-game average into Friday’s game. Kemp held her to 13.
“Stephanie played one of her best games,” Alcorta said. “She cut Lansing off at the baseline and didn’t drive in any more.”
“Gronewaller and Lancing are their bread and butter,” added McGrath. “So that was our main focus defensively and Lauren (Redfern), Christine (Thompson) and Stephanie (Kemp) were awesome guarding them.”
Now the team can set its sights on Centauri.
“We’re going to be so pumped up for them,” said McGrath.
“They took something away from us, and we’re definitely going to be prepared.” referring to last year’s 44-43 loss at La Jara.
This year, Alcorta expects a different outcome.
“We’ve wanted to play Centauri again since last year’s loss, and we’re not finished yet, the coach said. “Our goal was to make state and finish with the championship.”
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Amid hundreds of cleat-footed little leaguers casually gathered along the first baseline, the glare of parents’ sunglasses deflecting the early morning sun, coach Troy Phillips began a trip down memory lane.