Hustle lifts Meeker girls past Akron
PUEBLO — Meeker grabbed everybody’s attention Thursday by knocking off defending state champion Akron 52-47 in the quarterfinals of the Class 2A state girls basketball tournament at Colorado State University-Pueblo’s Massari Arena.
The victory propelled the Cowboys into today’s semifinals, where they’ll face top-ranked Lutheran (22-1) in a 7 p.m. contest.
“That was huge,” Meeker coach Greg Chintala said of the win. “We played good fundamental basketball. We got out of sorts at times but gathered ourselves quickly.”
It was the Cowboys’ quickness that set the game’s tempo as Meeker beat the Rams to the ball throughout the game.
After jumping to a 5-0 lead, the Cowboys built a 14-6 cushion and held the lead for most of the contest.
“I’ve got some girls who aren’t afraid to break a sweat getting up and down the court,” Chintala said of his team’s hustle.
Twice in the first half, Akron cut Meeker’s lead to one point — 14-13 and 23-22 — but both times Meeker answered with runs of its own.
Sydney Hughes’ three-point play on a drive and layup, Deena Norell’s follow shot and Aly Riding’s 15-foot jumper rebuilt a 21-13 margin after Akron’s first threat.
Early in the second quarter, Taylor Neilson scored a pair of baskets, and Hughes’ driving layup repelled the second Akron challenge for a 29-24 lead.
Akron finally tied the game at 30-30 and even took a 31-30 lead early in the second half, but a Neilson free throw and 3-pointer and a driving lay-in by Piper Haney made it 36-30 in favor of Meeker.
In the end it was Meeker’s touch at the free-throw line that secured the win as eight of the Cowboys’ final 10 points came from the line.
“We’ve been struggling (at the free-throw line) but got it down at the right time,” Chintala said.