Pueblo - The Peyton girls' basketball team won 24 games this season by playing tough defense and making outside shots. On Friday night, the Panthers saw their dreams of a 2A state title fade away because their opponent shot better and played better defense.
The third-seeded Panthers (24-2) fell 58-48 to No. 2 Yuma (25-1) at Massari Arena at CSU-Pueblo, ending their dream season one game short of the ultimate goal.
"They jumped on us early by making all those 3s, and then did a good job stopping us from what we wanted to do on the offensive end," Peyton coach Tony Goodman said. "We created turnovers and got steals, but we couldn't convert on enough of them."
Yuma was all over Peyton early, building a double-digit lead in the first quarter and holding a 25-11 advantage in the second quarter.
The Indians gave Peyton a strong dose of its own medicine, making eight 3-pointers and playing stingy defense - specifically on the perimeter.
"They really came out and defended our outside shooting well, and that's a big part of our offense," said Peyton junior Emily Green, who was the only Panthers player in double figures, with 13 points. "We had to try to find other ways to score and tried to get to the basket, but we couldn't get shots to fall. It just wasn't our night."
The main reason it wasn't Peyton's night was Yuma's Logan Hixon. The sophomore shooting guard scored 21 points - including five 3-pointers - and was the catalyst for the Indians building such a large lead.
However, Peyton didn't go downeasy. Trailing by 14 at one point, the Panthers clawed all the way back to 42-40 just seconds before the end of the third quarter.
Yuma would score just before the buzzer of the third quarter to make the lead 44-40 and then score four quick points in the fourth to build a 48-40 lead. It was too much ground for Peyton to make up.
"They covered us pretty well when we tried to drive and shoot; we tried our best to score," said Peyton senior Shelby Patterson, who scored nine points - 10 fewer than her average. "These last four years have been great, and I don't know what I would do without my teammates."
As Yuma salted away the game with free throws late in the fourth quarter, the realization of a second-straight loss in the state semifinals started to set in for Peyton. There wasn't a dry eye that exited the locker room in the minutes following the game.
Goodman has been coaching the six seniors on the team since they were in middle school. He looked back at those years in a thoughtful moment after the game.
"I'm ecstatic to have coached this group, and I'm sad that they're leaving now," Goodman said. "They are my family; they're great kids and we have one game left together tomorrow for third place. I know they'll show the heart they have for the past seven years."