Longhorn girls slip past Grand Valley
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
BASALT – Guard Jamie Matherly joked that the Basalt girls basketball team just likes to keep things interesting.
Mission Accomplished. Again.
The Longhorns erased a seven-point halftime deficit after outscoring visiting Grand Valley, 10-4, in the third, then led by as many as eight during the fourth quarter. Still, they needed some late stops down the stretch and a pivotal free throw from Matherly to seal a 44-42 win – their third straight to open league play.
Basalt’s last two wins have come by a combined six points. The game before, they won in overtime.
“I guess that’s kind of our trademark,” first-year Longhorns head coach Dane LaBlanc said of his team’s recent run of dramatic wins. “It’s great to see that the girls can play four quarters and finish strong.”
Basalt trailed 27-20 at halftime, largely because it could do little to stop the Cardinals’ Erin Vanderpool, who routinely bulled her way inside and scored 12 points in the first 16 minutes. The Longhorns picked up the pressure in the third quarter and mounted a comeback.
Senior Mackenzie Buck scored twice in the lane and Julia Kapustka hit a jumper in the corner during the first four minutes, pulling the Longhorns to within three. Kapustka scored twice more down the stretch and Basalt, which closed the quarter on an 8-2 run, trailed, 31-30, heading to the final frame.
Buck, who finished with 11 points (all in the second half), scored twice and Matherly and Nicole Booth added baskets during the first four minutes of the fourth quarter as the Longhorns pulled ahead, 38-31.
“At the half we decided we needed to pick up our game and come out and be ready to play,” Matherly said.
Later, after Matherly missed the front end of a one-and-one with 38 seconds to play, Shawnee young nailed a 3-pointer from well beyond the arc to cut the lead to three at 43-40.
With 10 seconds remaining, Matherly sauntered to the charity stripe once more. She needed only one free throw to make it a two-score game.
“It was nerve-wracking.” she said. “Everyone is screaming at you to make it.”
She did just that, nailing the first to stretch the lead to 44-40.
Tiffany Tittes scored underneath and was fouled with 1 second remaining, but she purposely tried to miss the ensuing free throw and did not hit the rim, turning the ball over to Basalt.
“We were offensively inept,” Grand Valley head coach Mike Johnson said. “We struggled to make free throws, from the perimeter and we missed a lot of lay-ups. We did not do what we needed to do. … Tonight we weren’t the team we thought we were.”
The Cardinals looked the part of a potential 3A Western Slope title contender in the opening minutes, jumping out to a 6-0 lead. Basalt roared back, however, when Emily Morley scored six straight points and Matherly nailed a 3 from the wing.
Grand Valley closed the first with a flurry, and maintained that cushion in the second.
The Cardinals could not hang on.
“This was probably the toughest game we’ve had in the league so far,” LaBlanc said. “We came out in the second half with exactly the intensity we needed. … I’m proud of them sticking with it.”
The Longhorns needed stops. All they got were fouls.
Basalt, which led by one after three quarters in a sloppy game Friday with visiting Grand Valley, sent the Cardinals to the free throw line 25 times in the fourth quarter. The visitors made 18 and pulled out a 57-47 win, running their record to 4-1 heading into the holiday break.
The Longhorns, who were missing four players because of injury and team issues, dropped to 1-4 overall and 0-3 in 3A Western Slope play.
“The effort was there, but we’ve got to get smarter,” Basalt head coach Jon Pettit said.
With his team clinging to a 38-36 lead with 6:19 remaining in the game, Cardinals head coach Jake Higuera employed an interesting strategy on offense. He instructed his players to spread the floor and hold the ball out near half court.
“We can do a lot of things with it,” Higuera said. “We’ve got fast enough guys to do some things out of that.”
“We were surprised that they did that as early as they did,” Pettit added.
His players looked like they were caught off guard. The unique alignment opened up a slew of lanes for the Grand Valley guards, and the Longhorns were routinely caught out of position. They started fouling.
While Basalt saw its deficit increase, it struggled to find any open looks on offense. The Longhorns hit just four field goals in the quarter.
Team standout Omar Lopez, saddled with foul trouble, played sparingly during the third quarter and fouled out with 2:57 to play in the fourth.
“We needed somebody else to step up,” Pettit said. “We didn’t get it.”
Lopez finished with eight points and guard Blake Scherer added 10 for the Longhorns. Tyler Radel and Omar Melendrez each scored 12 for the Cardinals.
“We talked about being ready for teams to foul us hard and being careful with the ball. We did a good job of that,” Higuera said. “They played well, and it was nice to have this for Christmas. This is all I asked the guys to give me.”
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