Third-quarter struggles cost Montrose in 4A semifinal
BOULDER — The collapse was as unexpected as it was abrupt for the Montrose High School girls basketball team.
After jumping to an early double-digit lead Wednesday against the Mullen in the Class 4A semifinals, the Indians wilted in the second half in a 56-40 loss to the Mustangs at the Coors Events Center.
A two-point third quarter, a nearly eight-minute scoring drought and an unexpected 11 straight points by Mullen sophomore reserve Autumn Burt ultimately foiled the Indians in their first Final Four appearance since 2001.
“They just took advantage of our mistakes in the second half, and that’s what good teams do,” Montrose coach John Mraule said.
It didn’t help that Montrose’s potent post combination of Hanna Bowden and Kaylee Walker endured foul trouble and fouled out in the early stages of the fourth quarter.
“It’s tough to play like that because you’re always worried about fouling somebody,” said Bowden, who recorded team highs of 11 points and 14 rebounds. “You can’t just play like you
want to play.”
Walker (nine points, eight rebounds) was limited to only 15 minutes of action before fouling out.
“It’s tough because they’re our Rock of Gibraltar down there,” Mraule said.
Montrose (24-3), which established a team record for victories in a season, dictated the tempo early. The Indians harassed Mullen into 11 consecutive misses to begin the game and built a 10-point lead for a stretch of the second quarter. Montrose entered halftime ahead 27-22.
Then things went downhill.
Mullen (23-4) outscored the Indians 18-2 in the third quarter, including the 11-point burst by Burt after the score was tied 29-29.
“As a team, we had to have someone motivate us, so I did it,” said Burt, who scored 17 points (one shy of Mustangs leading scorer Laura Palmere) and grabbed nine rebounds despite her 5-foot-5 frame. “We came back out after halftime, knew what we needed to do, and we did it.”
Nearly a full quarter elapsed between Rachel Hansen’s basket with 6:22 remaining in the third quarter until Montrose scored again on Walker’s inside bucket (6:28 remaining in the fourth).
“We came out in the second half and our first four possessions were turnovers,” Mraule said.
“That’s what got us to this point — we didn’t turn the ball over.”
Mraule said attempts to transfer to a zone defense to compensate for the foul trouble of
Bowden and Walker were unsuccessful.
Mullen plays Broomfield, winner of 39 consecutive games, in Friday’s championship game.
PAUL WILLIS/ Special to The Daily Sentinel