Grand Valley pulls off upset win over top seed Delta to take 3A girls District championship

Coal Ridge boys defeat Moffat County in third-place game; Rifle falls in 4A second round

Mike Vidakovich
For the Post Independent

The bank is open.

In Saturday afternoon’s 3A District championship game at Grand Junction Central High School, Grand Valley sophomore guard Jaycee Pittman banked in a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter to keep her team close to the Delta Panthers at intermission. That set the stage for backcourt running mates AbbeyRose Parker and Bailey Radel to flex their offensive muscles in the second half, propelling the Cardinals to the improbable 41-33 upset victory.

The win propels Grand Valley into the 32-team 3A regionals as the No. 4 seed, hosting No. 29 Buena Vista in Parachute Friday night. The winner advances to play the winner of the No. 13 Ellicot vs. No. 20 Colorado Academy game, with a trip to the 3A Great Eight on the line.

The Coal Ridge girls, who lost in the quarterfinals of the District tournament, head to the regionals as the No. 15 seed, facing No. 18 Resurrection Christian on Friday. Host University, the No. 2 overall seed, plays No. 31 Eagle Ridge Academy in that region’s other matchup.

Delta, which came into the District title game with a sparkling 18-2 record, including an undefeated 7-0 mark in league play, had defeated Grand Valley 65-53 in Parachute just two weeks ago.

It looked a lot like history would repeat itself at the game’s beginning, as Delta senior guard Kaelynn Porter hit a couple shots from beyond the arc for the Panthers, and 6-foot senior post Erika Kuta got an offensive rebound and put the ball back in the hoop, forcing Grand Valley coach Scott Parker to use an early timeout with his team trailing 9-3.

The Cardinals would end up mustering just three points in the entire first quarter, all by sophomore guard Aryaa Tanner, who had a basket in the painted area and a free throw.

With both teams struggling to find a rhythm offensively in the slow paced game, things didn’t look much better for the Cardinals in the second period until Parker got a late steal and a layup for Grand Valley and Pittman banked in her second trey just prior to the halftime buzzer to cut the Cardinal deficit to a manageable 19-14.

Having had trouble finding her touch from 3-point range in the first half, Radel, who is the second- leading scorer for Grand Valley at 13.7 points per game, began to feel her oats from long range after the break.

On a feed from Parker, Radel hit a 3-pointer from the corner in front of the Cardinals’ bench to tie the game at 19-all.

Kuta, who has signed to play college basketball next year at Western Colorado University, answered with a score in the lane to put Delta back in front. Radel then hit another 3-pointer and Parker drove the lane and spun around for a twisting layup to give the Cardinals their largest lead of the game at 27-23.

In the crucial fourth quarter, Parker put the Cardinals on her back and carried them to the district championship.

Picking up consecutive steals on Delta crosscourt passes, Parker raced the entire length of the court to score on two layups. Then, on an isolation play following a timeout, the shifty junior guard drove the lane from the middle of the court and dropped in a soft banking shot to give Grand Valley a lead of 38-33.

Delta had no answers offensively, or for the second half charge of Parker and Radel, as the clock struck midnight on their hopes for a district championship.

“We made a little scoring run there toward the end of the first half and it gave us some momentum and relaxed the girls a little bit,” Grand Valley coach Scott Parker said. “We stopped being tentative and the two guards (Parker and Radel) stretched the court and allowed us to hit some shots and get to the basket.”

Only four Cardinal players scored on the afternoon. Parker had game honors with 18 points. Radel had 11 points, including three 3-pointers. Pittman ended with nine points and Tanner had three points.

Grand Valley (18-4) will host a 3A state regional playoff next Friday night and Saturday in Parachute.

Boys third-place game: Coal Ridge 53, Moffat County 51

Earlier in the day Saturday, the Coal Ridge High School boys nipped Moffat County in the third-place game in overtime, 53-51.

Down 38-29 going into the fourth quarter, the Titans came charging back to tie it at the end of regulation, 45-45, then outscored the Bulldogs 8-6 in overtime to win it.

The Titans were led by juniors Andres Mendoza with 23 points and James Webber with 11.

Coal Ridge ends its season on a winning note at 11-11, but did not earn an automatic bid to the regionals. It was the final game in a Titans jersey for seniors Johnny Bencomo, Eddie Salazar and Damian Lopez.

Top-seeded Aspen easily won the district championship in the late game Saturday, 59-33 over Delta, and will host a regional playoff next weekend as the No. 3 seed overall.

The Skiers will play No. 30 Denver West to open things Friday night, the winner advancing to play the winner of the No. 14 Englewood vs. No. 19 Kent Denver game on Saturday with a trip to the Great Eight on the line.

The Aspen High School boys basketball won the 3A District championship Saturday in Grand Junction and will host a regional playoff next weekend. Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times.

In 4A tournament action, the 48th-seeded Rifle boys bowed out in the second round Saturday with a 72-49 loss at No. 16 Falcon. Game details were not immediately available.

Rifle concludes the season at 8-16. It was the final game in a Bears jersey for seniors Jace Collier, Trey Caldwell, Danny Carreon, Javier Salgado, Broc Caldwell, Brady O’Donnell and Jason Prado.

Post Independent senior reporter and managing editor John Stroud contributed to this report.

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