Basalt tops Pagosa Springs on road to state tourney
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Behind 29 points from junior guard Mariah Mulcahy, the Basalt High girls basketball team advanced to the Class 3A state tournament for the first time in 13 years.
In a “Sweet 16” contest Friday night at the BHS Bighouse, Basalt, now 23-1, beat Pagosa Springs 63-47 to earn a berth to the eight-team finals, the so-called state tournament slated for Thursday through Saturday at Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
“Very exciting,” said Basalt coach Debbie Alcorta. “It’s the first time in 13 years and it’s just awesome.”
On Thursday, Basalt, the No. 4 seed in the 32-team field, will tip off with No. 5 Centauri (21-1) at 11:45 a.m. at Air Force Academy.
Before Basalt even opened play this season, the team set a goal of reaching the state tournament, a continuing goal from the season before when the team’s quest for its first state title fell short in the round of 16 in a loss to Centauri. However, now that the Longhorns have reached the state tourney, Alcorta said the team still has something to accomplish.
“Now that we’re here, it still feels like we’ve got something left to do,” she said. “I feel like the state championship is within our reach. There’s something special about these girls.”
Midway through the first quarter on Friday against No. 13 Pagosa Springs, Basalt took the lead and never looked back.
“We played the same game against Pagosa Springs that we’ve played all year,” Alcorta said. “We did everything like we always do. We just ran and ran and ran and they got tired.”
After taking a 21-13 lead through the first quarter, Basalt stretched the lead to nine, 34-25, at halftime.
“We showed some signs of weakness in the third quarter, with a bunch of turnovers, but the gym was absolutely going crazy supporting the girls,” Alcorta said. “We took a timeout with a few minutes left in the third [quarter] and I just told the girls to take a breath and re-focus. And they went out and forced three turnovers, scored six points and they never looked back.”
Pagosa Springs cut the deficit to seven points, 44-37, entering the fourth quarter, when three of Basalt’s inside fixtures fouled out of the game, including sophomores Lauren Redfern and Autumn Caughern and senior Stephanie Kemp. But Basalt’s bench players kept the pressure on down the stretch, and the team finished the night perfect from the free-throw line, at 8 for 8, to secure the victory.
“Our bench players said, ‘You know what, we want this just as much as the starters do,'”Alcorta said, “and they played beautifully. There was no let down.”
At the conclusion of the game, BHS senior reserve player Pamela Mayer checked in. “I wanted all my seniors on the floor for the finish,” Alcorta said. “They deserved it.”
Mayer sank a jumper as the buzzer sounded, but the referees called it back, citing traveling on senior point guard Molly McGrath with less than 2 seconds remaining.
“All the girls ran out and hugged her [Mayer], it was special,” Alcorta said, “the way a big game’s supposed to finish. But Molly got called for traveling and they didn’t count it. The refs even conferenced about it – they wanted to let it count because it was so sweet.”
Mulcahy led BHS with 29 points, but according to her own count, it was 27. “She’s saying she got 27,” Alcorta said. “She gave two points to Pam [Mayer].”
“She was absolutely incredible,” the coach continued. “She had the game of her life, offensively and defensively.”
Caughern added 13 points for Basalt, Redfern netted 8 points and hauled down 12 rebounds, while McGrath contributed 7 points as well as 10 assists. Senior Christie Thompson grabbed 11 rebounds, and chipped in 2 points. Junior Makinzie Holmes and Kemp added 2 points each.
“Everywhere the ball was, Christie [Thompson] or Lauren [Redfern] was on top of it,” Alcorta said. “Pagosa Springs had two girls over 6-foot-1, much bigger than us, but we dominated the boards.”
Basalt’s next opponent, Centauri, features traits similar to Basalt’s, Alcorta said.
“They like to run and they like to press. They’re a lot like us,” she said.
When asked about the qualities that make her team special, Alcorta didn’t cite stats, instead she listed the team’s off-the-court attributes.
“Sometimes you just meet people who impact your life,” she said, “change the way you feel about things. These girls are all smart with great GPAs, they’re beautiful, they serve the community and they’re obviously athletic. They do everything a good person does, and they go beyond it. Someday I’ll be able to put my finger on it, but when you combine all those things, they’re just incredible. They’re destined to do great things.
“Normally in a game situation, we have three players who are always on, but who those three are always changes,” she continued. “I always know that Mariah [Mulcahy], Autumn [Caughern] and Lauren [Redfern] are going to score, but if they have an off night, Stephanie [Kemp] and Christie [Thompson] and Molly [McGrath] are going to step up and make up for those points.”
“They’re very good at helping each other. Mariah [Mulcahy] was on fire Friday, so they got the ball in her hands as much as they possibly could. It’s frustrating for other teams: once they think they’ve figured us out, we bring on the bench. You have to feel like you’ve run into a brick wall.”
The Basalt team plans to travel to Colorado Springs on Wednesday.
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