Updated: March 5, 2013 at 12:00 am
Taylor Torres’ return to a Colorado Springs basketball court was a dream.
The freshman guard got just enough spin and oomph on a layup from the left side to have it climb over the rim and fall into the net with 8.3 seconds left to give Colorado Christian a 72-70 win over Colorado-Colorado Springs in the first round of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Shootout on Tuesday night.
The former Palmer High School star finished with 16 points, matching the output of fellow freshman and Air Academy grad Kate Louthan to propel the No. 6 Cougars into the semifinals against second-seeded Metro State.
Third-seeded UCCS (19-8) had the ball and a chance to score, but it was knocked away from Lauren Wolfinger into Torres’ hands as the final buzzer sounded.
Torres, the team’s leading scorer, focused on the Cougars’ (17-10) victory after her game-winner, which fell true as the shot clock expired.
“I’m just so thankful for my team,” Torres said. “It was definitely not just that shot that won it, it was the whole game and everything that led up to this. We perfected our offense in tonight’s game, and I think that’s what won it.”
A Kellie Krueger basket with 40 seconds left knotted the game at 70 and followed a Wolfinger 3-pointer that helped the Mountain Lions climb out of a five-point hole in the final 90 seconds before Torres’ heroics.
Colorado Christian built a 62-48 lead with 8:36 remaining after a Torres 3-pointer, but UCCS stormed back with an 8-0 run to close the gap. Kayla Fakelman scored 12 points, and B.J. Moyes added 10 for the Cougars.
The loss ended a season in which UCCS set a school record for victories.
“It’s been awesome, and I think our future is really bright,” UCCS coach Corey Laster said. “I didn’t think we played very hard in the first half and were a little tournament nervous. I don’t know how many layups and open looks we missed, and I think our young players got caught up in the moment a bit.”
Colorado Christian’s victory served as revenge for a lopsided 84-60 home loss to UCCS on Jan. 19.
“We had some big shots from some freshmen, and I love they got to do that and their families got to be here,” Cougars coach Tim Hays said. “Even when we had a 10-point lead, we knew (UCCS) still had a run in them. I’m just glad we ended up with the last shot and not them.”
Wolfinger, UCCS’ lone senior, finished with a career-high 28 points in her final game at the Gallogly Events Center.
“We knew this game was going to be tough, and all we could do was play our hearts out,” Wolfinger said. “I’ve been able to be a part of some pretty big wins at UCCS. To have a team this young not give up and make it to this spot is special.”
Abby Kirchoff, UCCS’ leading scorer, had 13 points and 11 rebounds despite a 4-of-15 shooting night, and Krueger added 16. The Mountain Lions won the rebounding battle 44-36, but were just 5-of-19 from 3-point range.
The teams combined for 43 turnovers in the intense, fast-paced and physical game.
The Cougars used a 9-2 run late in the first half to build a 10-point advantage and led 41-33 at the half.