Jenn Urbaniak scored 13 of her team-best 18 points in the second half and made the key steal with 7 seconds remaining as Palmer held on to upset top-ranked Highlands Ranch 54-51 Wednesday evening.
“This is the first time since I’ve been the coach here that we’ve played the No. 1 team in 4A and the No. 1 team in 5A back-to-back,” Palmer coach Dave Shackelford said.
Not just played, coach. The Terrors knocked off 4A’s top team, Pueblo South, 54-46 on Saturday. Wednesday’s win makes Palmer two-for-two against teams ranked atop the statewide poll conducted by the Denver Post.
But it didn’t come without a scare. A layup by Emily Childress with just under a minute remaining cut Palmer’s already-tenuous lead to 52-51. A pair of free throws by Palmer’s Chyna Hardy were matched by a turnaround jumper by Madison Montgomery with 26 seconds remaining.
Another Highlands Ranch foul put Shanah Leaf at the foul line, where she made one of two. Seeking the tie, the Falcons’ Kelsey Wainright got the ball in the low block and was looking to pass to a cutter for a layup – a play that had worked all night.
“They’d been running the same play all game where the big girl cuts down,” Urbaniak said. “I just really wanted to get the ball back.”
She did. Urbaniak’s deflection went to Leaf, who was immediately fouled. Leaf made the second of her two free throws to put Palmer up by three.
“That’s a heck of a move for a sophomore,” Shackelford said of Urbaniak’s steal. “She sees the floor so well and with her wingspan, she makes some impressive plays.”
Symone Starks’ shot at the buzzer missed, giving Palmer its second huge win in as many games.
“I couldn’t be prouder of a group of girls; they did a fabulous job tonight,” Shackelford said. “It did get scary at the end.”
Jasmine Green had 13 points for Palmer and Hardy had 10 points and five steals, three of which came in the pivotal fourth quarter. Leaf finished with seven points and a team-best eight rebounds.
Madison Montgomery led Highlands Ranch (2-2) with 28 points and four blocked shots.
Palmer improved to 4-0.
“It’s big,” Shackelford said. “Yes, it’s only December, it’s not February or March yet but to beat a quality team like Highlands Ranch — it’s a feather in these girls’ caps.”
With the back-to-back wins over top-ranked teams, Palmer is now firmly in the cross-hairs of every team it plays.
“Right now I’m at a loss for words; I’m just so excited for the girls,” Shackelford said. “I told them to enjoy the moment but tomorrow’s another day.
“Now we’ve got a big target on our back.”