Poor first quarter dooms Warriors against Horizon
DENVER — The state semifinals were not the planned destination of the Grand Junction Central girls basketball team at the beginning of the season.
But the Warriors almost made it there Friday before falling to top-seeded Horizon 50-42 in the state quarterfinals at the Denver Coliseum.
In the end, the Hawks reached next week’s semifinals at the CU Events Center in Boulder by hitting their free throws to stave off third-seeded Central (18-8), which threw a scare into 25-1 Horizon, even after a horrendous first quarter.
Central was stifled by an aggressive Hawks defense in the opening quarter, helping Horizon jump out to a 24-4 lead. After taking an 3-0 lead on Amy Kame’s 3-pointer to start the game,
Central turned the ball over 10 times, fueling Horizon’s 24-1 scoring run. By all indications, it looked like the Warriors’ season would end in a rout on the floor of the Coliseum.
“They put some pressure on us and we couldn’t relax until we got to the locker room at halftime,” Central coach Todd Dixon said.
The Warriors, which upset No. 2 seed Arapahoe in the Sweet 16, may have felt they had nothing to lose at halftime, trailing the Hawks 28-14. Central came out of the locker room much looser as they began whittling away at the deficit immediately. Two baskets from
Tayler Else and a blocked shot by Kame led to a 9-0 Central run, cutting Horizon’s lead to 33-27 with three minutes and 20 seconds left in the third quarter.
“We were more relaxed,” said Kame, who led all scorers with 20 points. “We know what we can do and we knew we could go out there and show how good we could be.”
Horizon coach Greg Hahn said the Hawks’ defensive lapses in the third quarter opened the door for Central.
“We made a few mistakes defensively and they got a couple quick baskets and all of a sudden it’s a tight ballgame,” he said.
Kame injured her ankle after scoring on a layup and hitting the base of the basket late in the third quarter, but she returned to help the Warriors apply more pressure to the Hawks in the fourth quarter. She hit a one-handed jumpshot with 4:26 left that narrowed the Hawks lead to 39-33. Haleigh Higgins scored on a short jumper with 59 seconds left to close the game at its closest margin since the opening quarter, 44-39.
But Horizon’s Cherae Medina secured the victory for Horizon by hitting all six of her free throws in the final minute to prevent the upset by the Warriors.
“We tried to foul them into missing, but they didn’t miss (at the free-throw line) and that’s what good teams do,” Dixon said. “They don’t miss down the stretch and they close out games.”
Even in defeat, the Warriors were proud they came back after trailing by 20 points and more proud they reached the state quarterfinals.
“We peaked at the right time and we got a lot better ,” said Kame, a junior. “We showed how good we can be in the future and I’m really proud of my team.”
The Warriors overcame dismal 16.7 percent shooting from the field in the first half to shoot 31.1 percent (14 of 45) for the game.
“We reached our goal (of reaching the quarterfinals) but we set a new one last night,” Dixon said. “We said let’s just keep going. Everyone felt this was David vs. Goliath, but we didn’t feel that way. We felt like we could compete with them. In fact, we did, but we just couldn’t keep our composure in that first quarter.”
Horizon had three players finish in double figures in scoring with Medina (15 points), Meagan Malcolm-Peck (13 points) and Brenna Malcolm-Peck (11 points)
BRAD BYLER/Special to the Daily Sentinel