Published: January 21, 2014
It didn't matter that Rampart's offense screeched to a halt down the stretch Tuesday in its 5A Metro League girls' opener at Palmer.
Forget about style points. In the end, the Rams finally found a way to beat the Terrors in a grind-it-out, 42-38 road victory.
"This is a big win for us, and a big hurdle our team had to get over mentally," Rams coach Megan Leatham said. "We'll take it however we can get it, especially in a league game."
Sophomore Nicea Eliely led all scorers with 16 points and added five steals as the Rams (9-3 overall, 1-0 5A CSML Metro) broke an eight-game losing streak against the Terrors (4-10, 0-2) that spanned nearly five years.
Eliely hit her first two shots of the second half, part of a 12-2 run that helped open up a 33-22 advantage with 2:05 left in the third quarter.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Cassidy Budge's easy jumper after an offensive rebound gave Rampart a 39-29 lead.
Then, things got interesting behind a rally led by sophomore guard Abi Torres and junior forward Jenn Urbaniak. Together, the two fueled a 9-1 run that made it a 40-38 game with 24 seconds left.
Following an Eliely airball on a free throw, Palmer's Bailey Smith took the inbound pass and raced down the court in the final seconds, but her bounce pass intended for Zee Wendt in the low blocks sailed just past the sophomore and harmlessly out of bounds.
Kara Jones hit two free throws with 1 second left to account for the final points for Rampart.
"We might have gotten a little too confident with the big lead," Eliely said. "We found a way to keep calm, and it was good to pull out the win. We just had to stay focused on defense and the next possession."
Tuesday's setback came three days after a 46-45 loss to Pine Creek on a game-winning shot in the final seconds.
"What we can take away from these two games is what we did good, and how we stayed in this game and didn't put our heads down," Torres said. "Their defense was good, but we were keeping up. It was not our night."
Early on, it looked as if it would be Palmer's night. Torres scored 11 of her game-high 14 points in the game's first 5:21 as the Terrors raced out to a 15-5 lead.
After that, Palmer's offense struggled to consecutive five-point quarters, then nearly rallied for a victory. Instead, the Terrors suffered another heartbreaking loss.
"We fought through to get back in it, then we'd have a lapse or make a mistake," longtime Palmer coach Dave Shackelford said. "We're young, and that's part of the growing-up process. The kids are learning, and we're getting better. They just compete in every game, and that's all I can ask of them.
Urbaniak added 11 points and 12 rebounds for Palmer, and Smith had 11 points as well.