Defense, rebounding lift Olathe into 3A district title game
Using a suffocating man-to-man help defense and pounding the offensive boards, the Olathe High School girls basketball team advanced to the Class 3A Western Slope District championship game.
The Pirates took charge early and overwhelmed Gunnison 44-20 on Friday night at Palisade High School.
“Our defense really set the tone for us tonight,” Olathe coach Paul Athlaus said. “I think the confidence the kids have is great right now.”
After taking a 9-2 lead after the first quarter, Olathe (17-4) scored 11 points in the final three minutes of the second quarter to push the lead to 21-7 at halftime.
The Pirates were cold from the outside but offensive rebound baskets by Amanda Kinterknecht and Theresa Tafoya pushed the lead to 17-4.
After a 3-pointer from Gunnison’s Leah Huizenga with 20 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Olathe got two quick baskets to end the quarter.
Tafoya banked in a 15-foot jumper, then Payton Grett stole the inbounds pass and scored right before the buzzer.
Olathe kept up the pressure to start the second half, forcing turnovers and playing aggressively at the offensive end.
Kinterknecht hit a baseline drive and followed that with an 8-foot floater for the first four points of the half to start a 6-1 run and a 27-8 lead.
Gunnison (8-13) responded with a 7-0 run, capped by a long jumper by Hunter Lucas, to cut the lead to 27-15.
Kinterknecht ended the run after an Olathe timeout with a pretty turnaround bank-shot in the lane and the Pirates cruised the rest of the way.
Tafoya led the Pirates with 13 points, including making five of six from the free-throw line in the second half. Kinterknecht added 10 points.
Olathe will feel right at home in toady’s title game against Moffat County, playing in the district title game for the fifth straight season. They are 2-2 in championship games, and lost last year’s title game to Moffat County.
The two teams split this season, each winning on its home court. Athlaus is expecting a tight game today, with tip-off slated for 4 p.m. at Palisade.
“They’re a quick, fast team, they like to drive the ball to the basketball, so we’re going to have to play good defense and be strong on the offensive end,” he said
The third-place game between Grand Valley and Gunnison is set for 12:30 p.m.