Strong second half leads Paonia into 2A title game
PUEBLO — History doesn’t have to wait anymore for the Paonia High School girls basketball team.
The Eagles made history Friday night when they beat fellow Western Slope squad Hayden 48-33 in the Class 2A state semifinals at Colorado State University-Pueblo’s Massari Arena.
“This was our goal — to get the state finals,” said Paonia coach Scott Rienks, who coached De Beque’s boys to a state title in 1998. “We didn’t have our best game, but we did enough to win and that’s all that matters.”
Paonia (25-1) advances to tangle with defending champion Wray (25-1) in the state championship at tonight at 7. Prior to Friday, the best state finish for the Paonia girls basketball program was third in 1991.
“Getting to the state championship game is great, but our girls aren’t satisfied with just getting here,” Rienks said. “We want to win. That’s not going to be easy because Wray is a very good team, that is very well coached and we’re going to have to be ready to play.”
Wray edged Meeker 52-49 Friday night to get the chance to defend its title.
In the semis, Paonia was sluggish in the first half, but found its groove in the third quarter. The Eagles outscored Hayden 17-7 and took a 33-19 edge.
Brittani Venard led Paonia’s charge with six of her 13 points. Jordyn Rienks, the coach’s daughter, had five of her game-high 16 points in the quarter as well.
“Our game plan is defense,” Venard, a senior, said. “If our offense isn’t going great, we just pick up our defensive play even more and once we start scoring points, that’s just a plus.”
Coach Rienks praised Venard.
“She really played solid on defense for us,” Rienks said. “She shut down Hayden’s Holli Salazar and once she did that our offense started clicking. Both and Jordyn hit some big shots for us.”
Wray 52, Meeker 49: During the last couple of weeks, Stacy Post has struggled at the free-throw line.
That’s not the case anymore.
Post calmly sank four consecutive free throws in the final 16.8 seconds, propelling the top-seeded and defending state champion Eagles to the dramatic victory at Colorado State University-Pueblo’s Massari Arena.
“I haven’t been shooting free throws very well at all,” Post, a senior, said. “I was so nervous, I was shaking. But, I just knew I had to make those free throws. Oh my gosh, this is such a great win.”
Wray is aiming for the seventh state girls basketball crown in school history.
Post’s first two conversions from the line at 16.8 seconds gave Wray a 50-49 edge. On Meeker’s next possession, Marki Cook dribbled past Wray defenders and shot a short jumper that hit off the right side of the backboard. Post grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 8.3 second left. She once again drilled two free throws. Cook took the inbounds pass and dribbled frantically up the court and fired a desperation 3-pointer from just past halfcourt that failed to hit the rim as time expired.
“That first shot Marki took was a good shot, it just didn’t fall,” Meeker coach Hallie Blunt said.
“The second shot Marki took, Wray just played good defense.”
Colorado Springs School 66, Meeker 41: The Kodiaks inaugural appearance at a state basketball tournament has definitely been memorable.
Junior DeLovell Earls poured in 30 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and had seven assists, leading Colorado Springs School to victory.
“We just played Kodiak basketball,” the 6-foot Earls said. “We played good defense and we got out and ran on offense. There’s no team in this tournament that can run with us.”
The Kodiaks took a commanding 33-19 lead at half and were never threatened in the second half.
“We live and die by our (defensive) pressure and we want to see if people can handle it and it worked for us again tonight,” Earls said.
Mitch Jacob had 17 points in Meeker’s defeat.