During a timeout in the opening half Monday night, Coronado coach Bryan Earls implored his team to contain Sand Creek’s Nikki Derrell along the perimeter.
It didn’t work. The freshman continued to let it fly.
Derrell, in a debut that may be a prelude for a star-in-the-making, intrigued with her slick behind-the-back crossovers and long 3-point swishes, finishing with a team-high 24 points as Sand Creek beat Coronado 56-38.
“I was nervous at first but once I got in the game all the nervousness was gone and I was like, ‘let’s go,’” Derrell said. “Let’s put in work.”
For a program eager to get back to its winning ways, this was a nice start.
Jalen Davis added 14 points for the Scorpions (1-0), who went to the state title game in 2015 and the semifinals in 2016 but finished just 8-15 a season ago.
As part of this new beginning, new coach and former UCCS player Payden Goldberg also got her first win in her high school coaching debut.
“You come into this as a first-time head coach with all those same nerves that the girls have,” Goldberg said.
“All I can ask for them is to do their very best and work as hard as they possibly can. Obviously getting a win is just the cherry on the top.”
Coronado players and coaches finished the game with concern about starting guard Hope Earls, who left the game in the first quarter with a head injury and was taken to the emergency room after the game, per coach and dad Bryan Earls.
Earls was ground for more than 5 minutes after violently hitting the back of her head on the floor. The freshman was trying to draw a charge when a collision knocked her off her feet.
The Cougars (2-2) struggled without her presence on the court, coach Earls after the game.
“It’s a hard loss for us but she’ll be all right,” he said.
Sand Creek trailed for most of the first half but took control in the second after changing its defense from man-to-man to a zone.
In the third, Derrell scored eight straight during a 90-second span and Sand Creek went on an 11-0 spurt to go up 35-26.
The Scorpions outscored the Cougars 32-15 in the second half and led by as many as 16 in the fourth.
The 5-foot-1 freshman guard finished with six 3s –some from four or five feet back of the line – and had three assists and three steals.
“We always wanted to bring a lot of talent and she really helps,” senior captain Davis said.
“I think she’s going to be a great leader after I leave.”
Coronado also showed off an intriguing freshman of its own in Fatinah “Jet” Muhammad, who was relentless defensively and led the Cougars with 16 points. Marisol Estrada added 12.
After the game, Muhammad did her best to keep things positive.
“I think we’re amazing once we stop getting down on ourselves,” she said.
“We just got to keep our energy up.”