The Delta High School girls basketball team plays at such a fast pace, sometimes it’s hard to slow down.
The Panthers worked enough clock, overcame a few too many turnovers and made enough free throws down the stretch Saturday afternoon to hold off Grand Valley 43-37 in the Class 3A Western Slope District championship game at Central High School.
“A lot of that is on me, I coach them to play at break-neck speed,” Delta coach Kyle Crowder said. “We play fast and when I ask them to play slow it’s hard for them, so when I tell them to slow it down and make passes that’s kind of a hard thing to do.”
Erika Kuta and Keely Porter each hit a pair of free throws in the final 17 seconds to seal the title after Grand Valley fought back from a 10-point deficit and cut it to two points with 33.4 seconds to play.
Bailey Radel buried a clutch 3-pointer from the wing to cap a six-point run that gave the Cardinals a chance, especially when Taygann Schoeppner stepped in front of a pass and was fouled with 19.9 seconds left.
The Cardinals’ senior, who finished with 16 points, missed both free throws, though, and Kuta latched onto the rebound and drew a foul.
Delta’s balance and depth led to its 17th straight win and secured the district title and a home game in next week’s state playoffs.
“That’s part of the reason we’re here, because we can play eight girls, and honestly, if I needed to, I could play 11,” Crowder said. “Our depth down the stretch, when we play back-to-back like this, our depth is going to be a big advantage.”
Porter scored 10 points, Kuta and Marcy Schaal had nine each and Sara Geddes and Alexa Huff six each. A 6-1 flurry at the end of the second quarter put Delta up 22-13, but Grand Valley scored nine straight points early in the third to pull within two, 24-22.
“She’s got a great motor, she can stretch (defenses), she’s athletic, she can guard end to end, she causes a lot of havoc,” Crowder said of Schaal, who gave Delta a lift off the bench. “She’s deceptively long and gets tips on balls other girls might not.”
Then it was Delta’s turn, with Schaal hitting a pretty pull-up jumper, Jessica Dexter scoring on an inbounds play and Geddes going inside to give the Panthers a 32-22 edge entering the final quarter.
That’s when Schoeppner came up with clutch play after clutch play, scoring nine straight points for the Cardinals, cutting Delta’s lead to 34-29 with just less than four minutes to play.
Kuta scored twice off offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter, which proved to be huge for the Panthers.
Crowder has a list of things the Panthers need to work on before the state playoffs start.
“We’re going to get a home game,” he said, “and that’s all that matters.”
Cedaredge 37, Roaring Fork 16: Sophie Andrews scored nine points and Kammie Henderson eight for the Bruins, who took a 13-3 lead in the first quarter to roll to the win in the third-place game.
Gunnison’s length and quickness wore down Aspen in the second half on the Cowboys’ way to the championship in a 79-49 win.
Gunnison led by six at the half, but behind Hunter Wood, outscored Aspen 21-7 in the third quarter. Wood finished with 30 points, Braden Wood had 16 and Quentin Richler 12. Aspen got 18 from Jonathan Woodrow and 14 from Taylor Akin.
Delta 61, Roaring Fork 56, OT: Frankie Harrington hit a 3-pointer with 44 seconds left to send the game into overtime, but the Panthers used an 8-2 run in the final two minutes of overtime to take third place.
Hunter Hughes scored 24 points for Delta, nine in the fourth quarter and three in overtime. Felipe Bedoy hit six of eight free throws in overtime to clinch it.