Longhorns find redemption over Roaring Fork
FORT COLLINS ” Both Roaring Fork and Basalt would no doubt have preferred to be playing on the other side of the Class 3A State High School Girls Basketball Tournament bracket, after a pair of close quarterfinal losses knocked them into Friday’s consolation round.
But it was the Basalt Longhorns who had something left to give, earning a 48-41 win over their local rivals and the right to extend their season one more game.
When the loser-out consolation semifinal game was on the line, the Basalt girls also proved to be the more seasoned state tournament veterans.
Both teams came out a little flat, and neither led by more than four points until the final minute of play.
Roaring Fork’s Whitney Campbell hit a three-pointer at the end of the first quarter to give the Rams a 12-10 lead. The Longhorns claimed the two-point advantage by half-time of the back-and-forth contest, 24-22.
The Rams hung tough and forced Basalt’s senior post player, Lauren Redfern, into foul trouble late in the game. But the rest of ‘Horns answered the call defensively and from the foul line down the stretch.
Down 41-39 with a little over two-and-a-half minutes to play, Basalt shut down the Rams and scored nine unanswered points, including five from the charity stripe, for the win.
“Some games, the ball falls a certain way, and this time it fell our way,” first-year Basalt coach Terry Kappeli said. “You have to take advantage of those opportunities when you have them.”
It was Basalt’s third win in four meetings this season between the two Roaring Fork Valley and Western Slope League rivals.
It also served as redemption for the Longhorns, who beat Roaring Fork twice during the regular season en route to their fourth consecutive 3A WSL title, but got tripped up by the Rams in the District Tournament championship on Feb. 28.
The result was a higher No. 5 seed for Roaring Fork in its first State Finals appearance since 1991, while Basalt, making its third straight appearance in the “Great 8,” drew the No. 8 seed.
It almost seemed like destiny that Basalt and Roaring Fork would clash again, regardless of which side of the bracket they fell.
Roaring Fork lost to No. 4 Platte Valley 64-61 in Thursday’s quarters, and Basalt came away 38-33 losers to top seed Kent Denver.
After the tough loss, Kappeli said his team came out and played like they wanted their season to continue more than the Rams did.
“I’ve never seen this group of kids this loose and ready to play. I think they just said, ‘hey, we’re here to have fun, let’s continue our season one more game,” Kappeli said.
And after Basalt let the District Championship game get away, the Longhorns weren’t about to let it happen again.
“We knew we had control of that game, too, and even though we lost, we came away thinking we were the better team,” Kappeli said. “We knew that, under the right conditions, we could win. We just weren’t ready to go home yet.”
“I felt like our defense really made the difference,” said Redfern, who led her team with 23 points, while fellow senior Deanna Spracher added 13.
“I think a lot of it had to do with us having the experience of having been here the last three years,” Spracher said. “Defense and discipline make a difference, and we knew we couldn’t play out of control.”
Redfern said it was hard to adjust from the physical Kent Denver game, in which she said she was allowed to play more her game.
“Yesterday, (the officials) let me play, and today they were calling it a lot tighter. You just have to realize it, and know when to back off,” she said.
After losing a game Roaring Fork felt it should have won on Thursday, the Rams exited the state tournament disappointed.
The Rams’ only senior, center Tarn Udall, who was named the News4/Rocky Mountain News 3A Player of the Year last week, was held to just eight points and nine rebounds against Basalt, well shy of her usual output. Junior Laura Wright paced the Rams with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
“We just didn’t have the fire this afternoon after yesterday’s loss,” Udall said. “We start throwing the ball away in those kinds of games, and it’s been our problem all season. It came back to get us.
“It’s just great to be able to play here, and it’s a wonderful experience,” she added.
Roaring Fork coach Jacky Gaddis was at a loss for an explanation after the loss.
“It was hard to come off that (Platte Valley) loss, and just really hard to get up for this game,” Gaddis said. “We just had too many mental mistakes. I really can’t explain it. I don’t think it mattered if it was Basalt, or whoever we played today. We just didn’t have it.”
The Rams concluded the season at 22-4.
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