Not half bad: Stansberry’s strong second half lifts Olathe past Coal Ridge

Olathe’s Tawni Middleton drives past Coal Ridge’s Chasity Gonzales to score two of her six points Thursday in the Pirates’ 40-25 victory in the Class 3A state tournament in Fort Collins.



FORT COLLINS — Morgan Stansberry came to the rescue right when her team needed her the most Thursday morning at Moby Arena.

The junior forward scored all of her game-high 14 points in the second half to help Olathe High School overcome a one-point halftime deficit and run away with a 40-25 win over Coal Ridge in the opening game of the Class 3A state tournament.

“I think we just finally got over the nerves and just decided to play,” Stansberry said. “We’ve all been kind of sick and nervous. We didn’t come out strong, but we played our game the second half.”

Thursday’s game, which tipped off at 8:45 a.m., marked the fourth meeting between the two schools. Olathe, now 25-0, won the previous three by seven, one and eight points. But Pirates’ coach Paul Althaus knew it would be difficult to beat a good team four times in one season.

“It is, and we talked about it, but they came out and did what they needed to do,” Althaus said. “You hate to keep seeing the same teams over and over. We’re anxious to move on, and see what we can do against some of these other teams.”

The No. 3 Pirates will meet two-time defending state-champion Holy Family (29-1), which beat Brush 68-47, in tonight’s semifinal.

“We’ve got to have a complete game without a doubt,” Althaus said. “We can’t have lapses like we had in the first half (Thursday). It will be a really tough challenge for us, but I think the kids have been looking forward to something like this all year. They wanted to be able to come over and see what we could do.”

In the first half, Coal Ridge (13-12) played exactly the way it had hoped. The Titans were able to slow things down and played tough defense to lead 7-6 after the first quarter and 14-13 at halftime.

“It was low scoring and kind of an ugly game, and that’s exactly what we needed,” Coal Ridge coach Rick Schmitz said. “That was the only way we could stay with them.”

Powered by Stansberry, the Pirates were able to turn things around the second half. They connected on 14 of 19 free throws in the second half and finished 17 of 22 on the day.

Stansberry hit eight of nine, including three in a row after being fouled on a 3-point attempt that gave Olathe a 23-20 lead late in the third. Tawni Middleton closed out the quarter with the game’s only 3, which gave the Pirates a 26-20 lead, and they would never look back the rest of the way.

Sam Wilson scored 12 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to lead Coal Ridge, which shot only 18.5 percent from the field.

Boys

Aspen 50, Manitou Springs 44: Andrew Papenfus fell to the floor, but the Aspen High School junior may have delivered the shot of the game in the process.

The 6-foot-6 forward hit a 3-pointer from the left baseline as time expired to end the third quarter and help lift the Skiers past Manitou Springs in the opening-round of the Class 3A state tournament Thursday at Moby Arena.

Papenfus’ shot not only gave Aspen a 38-32 lead, it helped ignite an 8-2 run that allowed the Skiers to separate themselves from the Mustangs, who led 12-10 after the first quarter.

“That’s a big-time play by a big-time player,” Aspen coach Steve Ketchum said. “He’s probably one of the best 3A players in the state. He just came through in the clutch.”

It was a good thing because Papenfus was the most consistent thing going for Aspen. He scored a game-high 23 as his teammates struggled to find their range.

Zach Babich, who finished with seven points, was Aspen’s next leading scorer.

“I’ve been here before, and I think our team had some nerves,” Papenfus said. “I just came out knowing it was just another game.”

No. 2 Aspen (26-0) meets No. 6 Buena Vista (21-5), which was a 59-48 winner over Peak to Peak, in one of today’s semifinals.


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