Lutheran’s press gives Paonia fits in loss
PUEBLO — The Paonia Eagles saw something they hadn’t seen all year on Friday — themselves.
The Lutheran Lions mirrored Paonia’s in-your-face press and the top-seeded Eagles couldn’t handle it.
Jennifer Vigil and the Lions raced to a 10-point, first-quarter lead and never relinquished it, claiming a 59-45 win in the semifinals of the Class 2A girls state tourney.
Paonia will play for third-place today against Evangelical Christian at 2 p.m. Lutheran will play Akron for the title.
“They didn’t run that kind of stuff last year, he’s got them a long ways,” Eagles coach Scott Rienks said about coach Mark Duitsman and Lutheran’s press. “Should it have given us a fit? No. If we would’ve done the things we were supposed to do, thrown the passes in the right spot, we would’ve been fine.”
Rienks said Meeker also ran a press but one game wasn’t enough to prepare the Eagles for the Lions.
He said it’s even hard for the Eagles to press themselves in practice because their philosophy is to play fast-paced.
“We just haven’t seen a press like that before,” junior guard Chelsy Reed said. “We haven’t seen a team that was as quick as that, that put as much pressure on us before. That was new.”
A trio of 3-pointers by Mandy Bushta, Ce’rra Carsten and Annavah Kropp in the second quarter and Abby Campbell’s two early in the third cut the lead to three, but the Lions slowly pulled away from there.
To start the fourth, the Lions held the Eagles scoreless for the first 3 minutes, 30 seconds, resulting in an 8-0 run.
“We really didn’t do anything different defensively,” Duitsman said about his team’s late-game success. “We just felt we had to go with what got us here.
“I’ve got to tell you it’s a scary matchup going against Paonia, and I have so much respect for that coach, for those girls.”
Senior Taylor Sturms led the Lions in the fourth, going 4 for 4 from the line, part of a team-wide 8-for-8 showing in the final quarter. They made 18 of their 23 free throws; the Eagles went 9 for 15.
Vigil scored nine of her game-high 16 in the second half. Sturms and Lexi Radic scored 12 and 11 for the Lions, respectively.
Much like their season averages, no Eagle scored in double figures. Carsten (nine), Kropp (eight), Campbell (eight) and Reed (six) led the way.