‘Horns look to rein a state hoops title

Jon Maletz
Aspen, CO Colorado
Longhorns senior Cassie Meyer shoots over a Hotchkiss defender in Saturday's second-­round state tournament game at Basalt High School. The Longhorns play Denver Christian in Thursday's "Great 8" at Colorado State Unversity in Fort Collins. (Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)

BASALT ” The past two weeks have resulted in district and sub-region titles for the Basalt girls basketball team. Whether its successful season culminates with a 3A state title remains to be played out this weekend on the hardwood at Colorado State University’s Moby Arena.

The No. 1 Longhorns’ quest for a state championship contin­ues Thursday when they take on No. 3 Denver Christian, last year’s runner-up, at 5:30 p.m.

“I’m really confi­dent about things right now,” Basalt head coach Carolyn Compton said Tuesday. “If we go about things with the same intensity we had the past couple week­ends, we have a heck of a chance.”

The Longhorns (20-4) have won 16 of their last 17 games and are arguably play­ing their best basketball of the year. They avenged two regular-season losses to fel­low No. 1 Cedaredge in 3A Western Slope play with a 21- point win over the Bruins in Feb. 24’s district championship. During its three- game run through the district tournament, Basalt outscored opponents by a total of 83 points.

Basalt’s dominating play continued at home in Friday’s state opener against Eaton. The Longhorns overwhelmed the Reds on both sides of the ball en route to a 44-point win. After a sluggish first half Saturday against Hotchkiss, Basalt outscored the Bulldogs by 23 in the final 16 minutes and advanced to Fort Collins with the 76-52 win. All 12 players on the roster scored in both contests.

Denver Christian (18- 6), mean­while, had a much tougher road to Thursday’s matchup. The Crusaders topped No. 6 Bayfield in a tight 4­ point game Friday, then outlasted No. 7 Buena Vista for a 40-38 win Satur­day. Denver Christian, which finished third in a Metro Conference that is sending four teams to the “Great 8,” is 8-1 in its last nine games.

Crusaders head coach Becky Mudd did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

“I don’t know much about Denver Christian other than what I’ve seen on the stat sheets,” Compton said. “I don’t see too many ways that we don’t match up.”

There’s reason for Compton to be con­fident. Her team has scored 1,539 points ” 64 per contest ” thus far, and are outscoring opponents by 18 a game. They’ve scored nearly 400 points more than the Crusaders. And of Basalt’s four losses, two came against 4As Rifle and Montrose.

The Longhorns are also comfortable on the road. They are 9-2 away from Basalt High School this year.

Denver Christian may, however, have familiarity on its side. The Crusaders have played five of the “Great 8” teams, and compiled a 3-3 mark. That record includes a 41-39 win Feb. 10 against No. 1 Faith Christian.

“I don’t worry about season play,” Compton said. ” It’s all about how pre­pared you are right now. I’m confident about how we’ve prepared and about the mindset we have.”

Compton isn’t concerned about a let­down Thursday. Not with a roster with five seniors. Not with four starters returning from last year’s squad that experienced a deflating second-round exit. The Longhorns led Colorado Springs Christian by eight after the first quarter and by two at the half in 2006, but struggled offensively in the final 16 minutes of a 39-36 loss. Seniors Cassie Meyer and Katy Mulcahy and junior Dayne Toney combined to score 27 of the 36 points against the Lions; Basalt will again rely on their contributions Thursday.

Of late, there’s been little talk about last year’s loss. “This is a different time and a different place,” Compton said.

The Longhorns had a team dinner at the Roaring Fork Club on Tuesday night, and will depart for Fort Collins early Wednesday after­noon. After a coaches meeting, Compton said the team will find an outdoor court and hold an informal practice. “We’ll play at the park, touch the ball and do something a little different,” she said.

Thursday, Basalt hopes things on the court are the same as they have been all year.

“We’ve worked hard to get where we are,” Compton said. “We’ve jumped a lot of hurdles and been through a lot as a team. It comes down to us coming out and playing like we have been. That’s the only thing we can control.

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