Cards beat Mancos for trip to state |

Cards beat Mancos for trip to state

GRAND JUNCTION ” With a trip to state riding on it, Katie Bryan wasn’t going to miss again.

Bryan accomplished what she wanted to do, draining two free throws, and the Cardinals earned a 39-30 win over a determined Mancos squad to advance to this week’s Class 2A girls basketball state playoffs.

Earlier, the junior had missed three free throws, which forced a command from Grand Valley coach Mike Johnson for Bryan to slow down.

“I’m not sure what I was saying sunk in, or she just went to what she was doing all week, because she’s a really good free-thrower in practice,” Johnson explained. “(Katie) struggled early in the game, but she hit the ones at the end to win it.”

“I was thinking, ‘I don’t want to lose this game,'” said the Grand Valley junior as she toed the free-throw line in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter with a chance to extend the Cardinals’ slim four-point lead.

As a team, Grand Valley followed Bryan’s example, connecting on 19-of-32 shots from the charity stripe, including 14 of the 16 points the Cardinals scored in the fourth quarter.

It’s a good thing they were hitting from that area, because Grand Valley had its problems connecting from anywhere else on the court.

“We said that we were going to win the game on the defensive end,” said Johnson. “We were still preaching defense, and I told the kids eventually the shots were going to fall. I lied to them, because they never did fall. But we did just enough to get a win today offensively, because we did not shoot well at all.”

How poorly did the Cards shoot? In the second half, Grand Valley made two field goals in 20 attempts.

Still, Bryan, Johnson and everyone on the bench had confidence they would pull out a win.

“I wasn’t too scared,” Bryan said of falling behind by eight points in the first quarter. “I knew we had the rest of the game to go, and we’re definitely a second-half team that does not give up.”

Johnson has noticed that trait as well of the 2005-06 Cardinals.

“This group of kids have more character than I’ve ever been around,” he said. “We’ve been through a lot with the loss of family members and injuries. This team does not ever give up.”

The Cardinals could have thrown in the towel after trailing 13-5 after the first quarter, but refused to do so. They clawed back to a 20-18 lead at halftime by outscoring the Bluejays 15-5 in the second quarter. The game was tied at 22-all before Patty Angel put Grand Valley back on top with a free throw.

Mancos tied the game three times in the final eight minutes but never led.

Bryan and Angel had 11 each for the Cardinals. Melinda Johnson added 10. Grand Valley held the entire Bluejay roster to single-digits with no player scoring more than nine points.

Johnson said that although the road to repeating this year as league, district and regional champions is “different,” it makes a statement to the rest of the state.

“It proves the program’s there,” the coach said. “It proves we have good kids, and it proves the system’s right.”

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