Updated: January 8, 2014 at 5:45 am
Rampart's defeat at the hands of Castle View on Tuesday was an example of a loss having a silver lining.
The Pikes Peak 5A No. 1 Rams fought hard, but came up short in a 65-55 loss to Castle View in Rampart's New Year's Classic a day after falling from the ranks of the unbeaten. Cassidy Budge's 16 points - all of which came in the second half - were not enough to help the Rams (6-2) avoid back-to-back losses after dropping a 43-37 nail-biter to Montrose on Monday.
"We played very hard tonight, and we did a lot of things well," Rampart coach Megan Leatham said. "We had some opportunities down the stretch that didn't go our way, and they executed very, very well down the stretch. We definitely had some chances in the fourth quarter, but we let some things slip away."
Castle View (9-1) used its size advantage, traps and a stingy zone defense to build a 16-7 lead after the first quarter, but Rampart responded in the second. The Rams scored the first eight points of the quarter en route to a 17-9 advantage to cut the Sabercats' lead to 25-24 at the break.
Rampart led 32-29 midway through the third after a three-point play by Budge, but Castle View clamped down and built a 43-35 lead thanks to a 14-3 run. The Rams twice cut the Sabrercats' lead to four points - the last time 50-46 after a pair of free throws by Budge - but Castle View responded with a 6-0 run and stifled Rampart in the game's final minutes.
"We definitely put in a team effort, got some steals and some and-ones, but we couldn't convert," said Budge, Rampart's leading scorer. "Our half-court offense struggled, but our defense was top-notch. Today, we played better as a team, and I thought that was important."
Rampart stayed in the game at the free-throw line, connecting on 76 percent of its attempts (26 for 34) in a physical game that featured 60 total attempts. The Sabercats scored seven of their final nine points at the line and were able to keep their lead down the stretch despite missing 10 attempts from the charity stripe.
Senior Jess McGovern led all scorers with 19 points for the Sabercats.
"It came down to some execution at the end, for sure," Castle View coach Matt Hema said. "I like this tournament, and I like to be here because we get pushed and challenged. It was a fun game to coach."
Nicea Eliely had 14 points and Megan Kavalec chipped in 10 for the Rams.
The losses, Leatham said, were night-and-day different.
"Yesterday, we did not play Rampart basketball, and regardless of what the score was today, I just wanted to make sure we were starting to play Rampart basketball again," Leatham said. "I saw that tonight, so I'm pleased. We would have liked to have gotten that win, obviously, but with where we are in the season, our goal is to just get better every day regardless of what the final score is.
"It's all about getting better every day, and I think we did that today."