Comeback falls short for Olathe girls

FORT COLLINS — Making their first appearance in the Class 3A Great Eight in more than three decades, Trinidad coach George Dasko joked that he and his team had trouble finding the entrance of Colorado State University’s Moby Arena.

Nonetheless, in the early moments of Thursday’s girls basketball state tournament game, it was Olathe that struggled to get its foot in the door, while the Miners had the look, poise and mentality of a state tournament mainstay.

The Pirates could never quite recover from a rough offensive start, playing from behind throughout their 42-39 loss to Trinidad in the first round.

“We came out kind of slow, and they are a quick team,” Olathe senior guard Tawni Middleton said. “They’re fast, and we just weren’t ready for that. The beginning of the third quarter, we came out strong. In the fourth quarter, we came out strong. It’s just, we couldn’t catch up.”

The fourth-seeded Miners (25-0) took a 13-6 first-quarter lead en route to snapping the fifth-seeded Pirates’ 20-game win streak.

While Trinidad moves on to a semifinals matchup against No. 8 Faith Christian (18-7) at 4 p.m. today, Olathe (22-3) will settle for a consolation game against Florence (15-10) at 8:45 this morning.

The Pirates entered Thursday’s matchup the more seasoned of the two teams, making their second appearance at Moby in three seasons.

The Miners — whose 1976 Great Eight appearance is their only one in program history — used stifling pressure defense and an active motion offense to shake any early game jitters they might have had.

Trinidad’s suffocating defense held Middleton to only 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting, well below her season average of 18.6.

Olathe took a quick 4-2 lead when senior Kylie Tait sank a pull-up jumper in traffic with 5 minutes, 32 seconds left in the first.

The Miners responded with an 11-2 run, closing the quarter on a Chelsea Vasquez spinning floater in the lane to give Trinidad a 13-6 lead with 12 seconds left in the quarter.

“We had some nerves,” Dasko said. “We didn’t defend the dribble very well at times, and that’s been our forte. We really are a pretty good defensive team. … But, we played well enough to win, and that’s good enough for us.”

The Miners led 20-16 at halftime, maintaining single-digit leads until the Pirates used a late-game run to tie the game at 37-37 after Middleton stripped Velasquez of the ball and fed Tait for a fastbreak layup with 1:28 left in the game.

Olathe scored only two points on a pair of Tait free throws the rest of the way, turning over the ball twice with a chance to tie the game or take a lead in the final 30 seconds.

“We just couldn’t finish in the end, and we couldn’t make our free throws (shooting 11 of 21), and that’s what really killed us,” said Tait, who scored a team-high 16 points.

The Pirates’ focus shifts to Florence, knowing that even though their state title hopes have evaporated, they still have the opportunity to place as high as fifth and send their four seniors off with a pair of wins.

“These kids have been so competitive throughout their careers, I expect they’ll be ready to go in the morning,” Olathe coach Paul Althaus said. “They’re going to work hard and play hard. They will be ready.”


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