Upperclassmen led the Manitou Springs girls’ basketball team to a 14-8 record and the No. 15 seed in the Class 3A playoffs, but it was underclassmen that carried the Mustangs to a 46-36 win in Friday’s postseason opener against No. 18 Faith Christian at Colorado Springs Christian School.
Senior Bridget Bodor, and her 5-foot-10 frame, was stuck at home with the flu for the matchup against the Eagles’ 6-foot leading scorer, junior Ashley Finch. Bodor had 13 points and nine rebounds when the Mustangs comfortably beat Faith Christian - and limited Finch to six points - in the team’s first game of the season.
“We knew coming into tonight that was not going to be the scenario,” Manitou Springs coach Justin Armour said.
In the second meeting, the Eagles kept Manitou Springs’ leading scorer, Caileen Sienknecht, in check, limiting the senior averaging more than 17 points per game to a pair of buckets. Her four points were the fewest she’s scored in a game this season.
“I’m not sure we effectively dealt with some of the junk defenses we got, but some of our players really stood up,” Armour added.
Freshman Alexia Vigil scored nine of her team-high 13 points in the first half, including the final four points of the second quarter that helped the Mustangs to a 23-22 halftime lead. She admitted to battling confidence issues earlier in the season, being expected to contribute to the varsity team in her first year, but that didn’t seem to be the case Friday.
“I wasn’t as nervous as I’ve been other games in the season,” Vigil said.
After junior Aniah Olson, Manitou’s second-leading scorer at 11.4 points per game, scored all 10 of her points in the first half, Abigail Parker, another freshman, scored seven of her 10 points in the fourth quarter.
“She had two 3s and a baseline jumper in about a minute and 30 seconds. That was really the difference. That’s some clutch shooting for a freshman,” Armour said of Parker’s fourth quarter.
“Vigil obviously had a great game and just was really tough-nosed, getting to the basket and played good defense all night.”
Vigil opened the scoring about a minute in, and the lead changed hands frequently until her spurt to end the first half.
Sienknecht came up with a steal and assisted Alexis Harper to open the second half. In Bodor’s absence, Harper had to guard Finch, who finished with 16 points.
“She was really good at sealing, and they did a good job getting the ball into her,” Armour said. “We put Harper on her in the second half, and I think Harper’s length made the difference and kinda made some of those entry passes difficult to make.”
A Finch bucket was Faith Christian’s only field goal of the third quarter, and Manitou lead 32-25 to start the fourth. Parker’s second 3-pointer gave Manitou its first 10-point lead with 5:30 to play. Vigil then capped her scoring off another Sienknecht assist, making it 39-27.
“Just a good family contribution tonight,” Armour said.
Manitou’s win came after No. 2 Colorado Springs Christian made quick work of Eagle Ridge, setting up an all-area matchup in the round of 16.
“We’re definitely not going to let them win without a fight,” Vigil said.
“It all comes down to just us playing as a team and helping each other out.”
In the Mantiou coach’s words, the Lions boast two superstars in seniors Rachel Ingram and Megan Engesser and a coach who’s among the best in Colorado Springs history in Mark Engesser.
“We’re going to have to get some rest and have our best game of the year tomorrow,” Armour said.
The Mustangs’ best probably includes Vigil and Parker continuing to play like upperclassmen.
“(I’m) really proud of those freshman and how far they’ve come,” Armour said.
“They don’t look like freshman anymore.”