Valley girls boogie to State Tournament |

Valley girls boogie to State Tournament

Jim Noelker photoBasalt's Mariah Mulcahy (23) and Lauren Redfern swarm over Roaring Fork's Jessi Rochel Saturday in the District Tournament at Palisade.

PALISADE – The valley girls are movin’ on, dude.

The girls from Basalt and Roaring Fork, perhaps the fiercest of friendly rivals, played their way right into the 3A State Basketball Tournament this weekend.

The girls from the heart of the Roaring Fork Valley not only qualified for state, but they played for the District championship on Saturday afternoon at Palisade High School.

“We didn’t want it any other way,” Basalt coach Debbie Alcorta said of the valley matchup for the 3A girls tournament title.

The Longhorns did their part to reach the championship game by overpowering Olathe and Rangely in the first two rounds.

Roaring Fork, meanwhile, rallied for a tense 40-34 win over Aspen on Thursday night and then stunned Cedaredge 59-58 on Friday night. The Cedaredge girls had entered that game with a 17-3 record and a high statewide ranking.

But Roaring Fork badgered the Bruins and set up Saturday’s all-valley championship game, featuring dynamic first-year coaches Alcorta and her Roaring Fork counterpart, Jacky Gaddis.

A scrappy, defensive-oriented game kept the score close through three quarters before a trademark Basalt roll helped the Longhorns to a 52-39 championship victory – a win that improved their record to 21-1, and a likely home game to open to 3A Girls State Tournament on Tuesday or Wednesday night.

Roaring Fork will head to state as the No. 2 seed from the District, 14-6 on the season.

“We wanted to make them sweat,” Roaring Forks’ Gaddis said after the Rams played Basalt to within 11-10 after one quarter and 20-18 at the half. “And I think they were sweating a little at halftime.”

But Basalt’s pressure defense, including three timely blocks, triggered the deciding run that started late in the third quarter. Molly McGrath’s pinpoint assist pass to Mariah Mulcahy started the run. McGrath then added two foul shots and the lead grew to 31-24 entering the fourth quarter.

Basalt’s Autumn Caughern then had the first of her three blocks to start the fourth quarter. And she converted a 3-pointer from the left side at the other end.

She immediately added another block for the Horns, leading to a pair of free throws by sophomore Lauren Redfern and another basket by McGrath. And Basalt led by 14 before Caroline Cretti answered with a corner jumper for Roaring Fork.

Even a basket by Roaring Fork sophomore Tarn Udall didn’t slow the Longhorns, who added another basket by McGrath and a hoop by Caughern off a Mulcahy assist.

A basket by Udall off a pass from Emily Markham and a Cretti free throw cut Basalt’s lead to eight with 1:49 to play.

But Basalt’s Stephanie Kemp scored; Caughern hit 1-of-2 foul shots; and Redfern tipped home the miss on Caughern’s second free throw to propel the Longhorns to the final 52-39 margin.

Mulcahy and Caughern scored 13 each for Basalt while Redfern added 10 and Kemp 8. McGrath added six.

Udall led Roaring Fork with 13.

Cretti added eight and Markham six. Freshman Carly Velasquez and Jessi Rochel added five each for the Rams.

“Rebounding … that was the difference in this game,” Alcorta said of the Basalt championship win.

She said the Longhorns had been off for a week and a half before the District Tournament and she knew they would not be as sharp offensively as they were earlier.

“But defense wins games … and rebounding wins championship,” Alcorta reiterated, saying the Horns had to focus on defense and rebounding in the tournament.

They limited Roaring Fork eight points in the second quarter and six in the third.

“Our defense the whole tournament has been incredible,” Alcorta said, adding that her team enjoyed the challenge of facing rival Roaring Fork in the championship.

In the third-place game Saturday, Cedaredge beat Rangely’s girls 46-37 in overtime.

Aspen won the third-place game, beating Paonia by 10.

Those teams, along with Basalt and Roaring Fork, will move into the 3A State Tournament.

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