Defense leads Paonia to Class 2A Region 5 title
Paonia put on a defensive clinic Saturday, holding Rangely to 28 points in a 41-28 victory in the Class 2A girls Region 5 tournament championship game at Mesa State, the Eagles’ third district title in a row.
Paonia now heads to Pueblo this week for the Class 2A state tournament. Pairings will be announced today.
The Panthers only scored in double figures in one quarter, putting up 12 in the second quarter. The Eagles also held the Panthers to only eight field goals.
Eagles coach Scott Rienks said the defense has been winning games for Paonia lately.
“In the last five games, the most points we have given up is 29,” Rienks said. “Our defense is what is winning games for us right now, and as long as we can do that we are OK.”
Rienks said he liked how the Eagles responded to being the favorites in the tournament.
“I was really proud of them of the fact they had the targets on their back,” he said. “We knew in this region, teams were looking at us to beat and I felt we didn’t melt under the pressure.”
Paonia controlled the first quarter, leading 11-4 and causing all kind of problems for Rangely.
The Panthers kept it close, cutting the lead to five — 21-16 — at the half. However, the Panthers couldn’t get any closer as Paonia made enough shots at key moments to keep the game out of reach.
Victoria Phelon and Audrey Hogan scored 18 of the 28 points for the Panthers. Phelon scored a team-high 10 and Hogan added eight, but no one else had more than four.
Rienks said he expected the Panthers to give Paonia everything it could handle in the teams’ third meeting this season.
“We didn’t want to have to play Rangely again,” he said. “We beat them the first two times and we knew Coach Jimmie Mergelman was going to have the kids ready to play and they played their tails off.”
Leslie Trujillo scored seven points for the Eagles, but her defensive effort has caught the eye of her head coach.
“Leslie is probably, this is my 19th year as a head coach, the fastest player defensive player I have coached,” Rienks said. “Last night she had seven steals and she can sometimes just come up on the player and the player doesn’t know she is there.”
Meeker and Hayden also earned spots in the 2A state championships this weekend in Pueblo.
Meeker overwhelmed Dolores 48-29 at Durango. Hayden was a 57-44 winner over Limon at Standley Lake High School in Arvada.