‘Horns net fifth in 3A tourney
FORT COLLINS ” The Basalt Longhorns took an eight-point lead into the final quarter and made clutch free throws down the stretch to hold off Centauri 47-38 Saturday and win the fifth-place state high school girls consolation championship.
It was the third straight year Basalt has placed at the Class 3A State Girls Basketball Finals, including last year’s fourth-place finish.
The win over Centauri (21-3) also settled the score with the same team that knocked the Longhorns into the consolation bracket two years ago, when Basalt lost in the quarterfinals to the Falcons, but regrouped to win the 2002 Consolation Championship.
“I sort of feel like it was our destiny to come here and clean up our old revenges,” senior point guard Brittany Pollock said, referring to the Centauri win and Friday’s consolation semifinal win over league rival Roaring Fork, which upset the Longhorns for the District Tournament championship two weeks ago.
Basalt (22-5) also beat La Junta in the Regionals at home last weekend, avenging last year’s 66-60 loss to the Lady Tigers in the third-place game.
Basalt overcame an early Centauri lead to take an 8-6 advantage at the end of the first quarter, and built a 21-13 lead in the second quarter before the Falcons’ Lacey Cooley drained a three-pointer at the buzzer to cut it to 21-16 at halftime.
Centauri closed to within three points at the start of the second half, but Basalt managed to build another eight-point lead, 32-24, at the close of the third quarter.
Up 32-26 with 5:54 to play, Longhorns senior Amanda Schmitt got tangled up trying to intercept a Falcons’ fast break and hit her head hard on the floor. She sat out the rest of the game, and was joined a few seconds later by teammate Deanna Spracher who picked up her fourth foul, and a few minutes later by Lauren Redfern, who also picked up her fourth foul with 2:09 to play.
Centauri took advantage and cut it to 39-38 with 1:29 to play, but also made only 9-of-18 free throws in the second half.
Basalt, meanwhile, was calm and collected, hanging onto the lead and converting their shots from the charity stripe when it mattered, hitting 13-of-18 attempts in the second half. The Longhorns hit 22-of-28 free throws, 78.6 percent, for the game.
Senior Rochelle Moebius and Spracher combined for 13 points from the free throw line after Schmitt got hurt. Ten of Moebius’ 12 points in the game came from the free throw line, where she was 10-of-12.
“We work on free throws all the time, because we know it’s important that we hit them at the end of the game,” Moebius said. “It just feels really good to do the job.”
Spracher led all scorers with 16 points, while Redfern had 11 points before fouling out with 1:29 to play in the game.
“You have to play kind of rough to get that early lead, but everyone at this level plays rough. They were just calling it tight again today,” Redfern said.
Senior Kiley Mortensen was Centauri’s leading scorer with 10 points.
First-year Basalt coach Terry Kappeli also credited the defensive play of Moebius, who had six rebounds and scrambled to gain possession of several loose balls near the end of the game.
“She’s tough on defense, and it’s a real credit to her after suffering a concussion earlier this season,” Kappeli said, referring to an injury Moebius sustained in the Longhorns’ only regular-season Western Slope League loss at Cedaredge last month.
“We moved up three spots from the eighth seed to place fifth, and played the No. 1 team pretty tough,” he said of Basalt’s 38-33 quarterfinal loss to Kent Denver. “We’re happy, and we’re blessed to have played as well as we did. These girls don’t give up, and we’re just so fortunate to be where we are.”
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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.