Coal Ridge splits matchup with Paonia
After opening the season with losses to Colorado Academy and Meeker, the Coal Ridge girls were looking to get the 2016-’17 basketball campaign jump-started with a win at home on Friday night against a very good Paonia Eagles crew.
The Titans weren’t able to garner their first victory of the season, as a tall, athletic, and talented Paonia team scored the game’s first 16 points en route to overwhelming Coal Ridge by a count of 65-19.
Senior guard Brianna Van Fleet got things started for the Eagles with a layup off a nice play in the opening moments of the game, and thanks to a suffocating 2-2-1 full court press that forced several Titan turnovers, Paonia raced out to a quick 18-5 lead at the end of the first quarter, and never looked back.
The point gatherers for Coal Ridge in the first half were junior Sam Dunn and senior Alexys Holder with a basket each. Senior Natalie Dougherty chipped in with two free throws, and senior Kaitlyn Harlow added a free toss as the Titans headed into the locker room facing a deficit of 41-7.
In the second half, the home team was able to handle the Paonia pressure a bit better, as Coal Ridge had their highest quarter point total of the night by hitting for eight points in the stanza. Junior Cheyanne Williams hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the Titans, making the score 51-15.
Both teams substituted liberally in the final eight minutes of play, and as time ticked away on the evening, the Titans could only look ahead to a home matchup next Tuesday night against the rival Rifle Bears.
“We’ve been working on the press break. We are capable of beating that kind of pressure that Paonia brought,” Coal Ridge Head Coach Clyde Morgan said. “We just have to cut down on the turnovers.”
Coal Ridge, who was led in scoring by Harlow and Williams, each with 5 points, now drops to 0-3 on the season. Paonia, the number one ranked team in the state in class 2A, stays undefeated on the year at 4-0.
COAL RIDGE 63, PAONIA 60
The Coal Ridge boys, under the direction of veteran coach Paul Harvey, at times are reminiscent of the old Loyola Marymount teams of the early 1990’s, when a shot would fly toward the basket within 7-10 seconds of each possession. You don’t want to look away, or you will miss something good.
With the four basketeers, guards Brandon Herrera, Jan Hernandez, Aaron Arreola, and Eziel Ruiz flashing up and down the court and launching 3-pointers at will in the first half, the Titans, following a 27-point second quarter, jumped out to a 46-39 lead at intermission, only to see the second half pace of play slow considerably, before holding on for a tight, 63-60 victory over the Paonia Eagles.
Coal Ridge was outscored by Paonia 11-5 in the third quarter, as the Titans had trouble finding the hoop, and containing the Eagles’ big man, senior Dagan Rienks, who poured in a game-high 32 points on the evening.
Things stayed tight in the fourth quarter as the lead swayed back and forth to both teams. Coal Ridge senior leader Hunter Gerber started to finally heat up, and his corner shot with 3:25 to go in the game gave the Titans some breathing room, and a 60-56 lead.
A basket by Rienks and a couple of Paonia free throws knotted the game at 60-all, and Coal Ridge was forced to go on the defensive with time running down and the ball in Paonia’s hands.
That’s when junior post Dylan Allen came to the rescue for Coal Ridge as he swatted away a Paonia shot attempt in the paint, giving possession back to the home team. Following a timeout by coach Harvey, the Titans patiently wound down the clock and worked the ball around the perimeter before finding Ruiz open just beyond the three-point arc on the left side of the basket. Ruiz calmly dropped the critical basket through the net for Coal Ridge with 11.8 seconds showing on the clock, and the crowd teetering on the edge of their seats.
Hernandez and Ruiz each contributed 14 points for Coal Ridge on the night, while Gerber chipped in with 10 points.
The Titans (2-1), will now await the arrival of the Rifle Bears(1-2) next Tuesday at 7 p.m.