3-pointers key 11-0 run in Paonia victory
It was close, then it wasn’t.
The Paonia High School boys basketball team used an 11-0 run to start the second quarter to pull away from Mancos for a 66-49 win in a 2A regional semifinal Friday at Palisade High School.
The Eagles drained six 3-pointers in the first half to stretch its 12-11 lead at the end of the first quarter to 37-22 at the half.
Taylor Walters hit a 15-foot jumper to end the first quarter, then the 6-foot-3 sophomore kicked out a pass to Jason Sturgis who popped in a 3-pointer.
The sizzling long-range shooting was the key, Eagles coach Chase Roeber said.
“We shot the ball really well early in the game,” he said. “We caught fire and pulled way. Otherwise, it was a pretty even game.”
When Sturgis snagged a steal and went-coast-to-coast for a layup, the run-and-gun Eagles were rolling. Bubba Gomez swished a 3-pointer and Eric Carney powered inside for a bucket for a 23-11 Paonia lead.
After a 3-pointer by Nigel Henry and a bucket by Daniel Christensen, Mancos looked like it had some momentum
But then Eagles freshman Colby Simpson hit a 3-pointer, and Sturgis scored on three straight trips down the floor, the second time with another 3-pointer to ignite another Paonia spurt. Sturgis finished the game with 18 points, one behind Walters.
With Roeber yelling from the bench, “Go, go,” to start the second half, the Eagles kept their foot on the pedal, scoring the first four points of the third, and the game appeared to be a rout.
After a ragged stretch, Mancos cut the lead to 45-30, and Roeber called timeout to settle the Eagles and slow the pace.
After the timeout, Walters hit a turnaround jumper in the lane and was fouled. He made the free throw, and the lead was back up to 18.
Thanks in part to Mancos’ pressing defense, Paonia’s ragged play continued, and the Bluejays took advantage. When Brandon Hood hit a pair of free throws, the lead was down to 10 at 50-40.
With the big lead, Roeber wanted to slow the pace even more, but the second half was a struggle.
“We lost mental focus a little bit,” he said “They brought some pressure, and it made us feel like we had to play in a hurry, but there was no need to play in a hurry, we had the lead.”
With two assists from Josiah Spano, Sturgis and Carney hit buckets for the Eagles. Spano then hit an open Walters for a jumper, and the lead was 61-44 with four minutes remaining.
Ben Linnell provided the exclamation point on the game when he took a pass on the fast break, and the senior dunked it with 2:02 remaining, as the Paonia fans roared their approval.
Paonia now faces Meeker, a 79-73 winner over Resurrection Christian in the other semifinal, for the title at 1:30 p.m. today at Palisade High.
Roeber said for the Eagles to win the regional title, it will come down to basic, fundamental basketball.
“We have to play defense better, we have to rebound better, and we can’t turn the ball over like we did today,” he said.