Two of the top contenders for the girls’ basketball 4A Pikes Peak conference collided for the first of two meetings on Tuesday night, and the game didn’t disappoint.
Host Sand Creek (6-3, 1-0 4A Pikes Peak) did just enough to outlast Palmer Ridge 46-41 behind a balanced attack and a great defensive effort down the stretch.
After trailing 25-22 at halftime, the Scorpions opened the second half on a 10-0 run to take a seven-point lead.
“At halftime before coach even came into the locker room we all said to each other that we could play better and we needed to right away,” said Sand Creek junior guard Mikayla Reese, who led the Scorpions with 13 points. “We didn’t play our best game and we still won, so that says a lot.”
A pair of sisters provided Reese enough support to get the win. Junior J’nae Squires had 10 points and her freshman sister, Oliana, chipped in nine for Sand Creek.
Despite being out-rebounded 28-13, the Scorpions stayed in the game with their athleticism and quickness. It was a great way to start the conference slate, as both teams know that the other is most likely the main competition for a league title.
“In the first half we were very discombobulated, and every time we tried to do something we had something out of place,” Sand Creek coach Jamie Carey said. “We made a few defensive adjustments at halftime, but mostly it was just about the girls refocusing in the second half.”
In addition to its halftime tweaks, Sand Creek also benefited from Palmer Ridge foul trouble. With 4:32 left in the fourth quarter, the Bears’ main weapon – junior post Ali Meyer – fouled out with 21 points and 10 rebounds. At that point, Palmer Ridge (6-2, 1-1) trailed 40-37. Although the Bears played it even until the last 20 seconds they couldn't find a way to score enough points to win the game with their star player on the bench.
“It was very frustrating to have to sit on the bench and not be able to help my team, but I have faith in my teammates, and they played well without me and hung in there,” the 6-foot-1 Meyer said. “We only lost by five, and I was proud of the way they fought.”
Palmer Ridge went just 11-for-19 from the free-throw line. When Reese iced the win with two successful free throws with 20 seconds left the Bears were forced to look ahead.
“We’re shooting about 72 percent on the year from the line, so it was unusual for us to shoot that poorly tonight,” Palmer Ridge coach Dennis Coates said. “Sand Creek is a very good team, and we’ll get to see them again Feb. 28, so we just want to continue to improve.”