Longhorns blow lead but hang on
FORT COLLINS – Basalt junior Emily Peetz’s 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter brought the crowd to its feet and stretched the lead over Denver Christian to 16. No. 1 Basalt (21-4) looked like a lock to pull out the 3A state quarterfinal win at Colorado State University and advance to the semifinals. But those plans were on hold – at least for a few tense moments.The Crusaders strung together 10 straight points during a 2 1/2-minute stretch to cut the lead to four, then pulled to within three with 1 minute, 13 seconds remaining. But Basalt, which has won 17 of its last 18, found an answer. Ailing junior Katheryne Fitzpatrick sank three of four free throws, and senior Cassie Meyer scored in transition in the final minute to secure a 59-52 Longhorns victory. Basalt advances to tonight’s state semifinals to play fellow No. 1 Faith Christian.With her team leading by just three with little more than one minute to play, Basalt coach Carolyn Compton said she didn’t notice the score at first. Instead, her eyes were fixed on her players on the Moby Arena floor.
“After all these years, I know how the game is going by looking at my girls’ faces,” Compton said. “If they’re all right, I’m all right. They were.”Still, Basalt faltered against Denver Christian’s full-court pressure and, after struggling to get the ball in play, had to call a timeout. With 1:13 to play and a 53-50 lead, Longhorns center Meyer threw an inbounds pass up for grabs near midcourt; Crusaders senior Kristen LeFebre intercepted it, then passed off to a teammate before falling to the floor. Meyer made up for the miscue moments later when she thwarted an attempted drive in the lane and forced a Denver Christian turnover. Fitzpatrick, who spent much of the day battling a stomach bug, was fouled on the ensuing possession and went to the line for a one-and-one opportunity.”I was a little nervous,” she admitted, “but I knew we needed those.”
Fitzpatrick sank both to stretch the lead to five. After a steal on the ensuing Denver Christian possession, Meyer shook free in transition, received a pass and finished the easy lay-in. Fellow senior Katy Mulcahy, who led all scorers with 22 points, sank two free throws with 16 seconds remaining to pad the lead and seal the win.”Once again we showed our fight,” Crusaders coach Becky Mudd said. “We just dug ourselves too big a hole in the third quarter.”After Meyer botched an easy layup and Mulcahy missed both of her free throw attempts midway through the third quarter, Denver Christian’s Lucy Bell found some space and scored down low, cutting the Longhorns’ lead to 34-30. But, with Crusaders team leader LeFebre, who finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds, relegated to the bench after picking up her third foul with 3:59 to play, Basalt capitalized with a 9-0 run. First, junior Dayne Toney executed a perfect bounce pass to Mulcahy for the finish in the paint, and Meyer hit a jumper on the baseline for two of her 12 points. Mulcahy then stepped back and buried a long 3-pointer – her second of three in the game. Toney finished in transition on the following possession to stretch the lead to 13.
“I told all my teammates that I finally found my shot,” Mulcahy joked. “It came at a good time.”Mulcahy led the charge in the first half, scoring 12 points. She buried a jumper, then took the ball to the hole for two in the final two minutes of the first quarter to give Basalt a five-point lead after eight minutes.Mulcahy teamed with junior Emily Peetz on back-to-back threes in the final minute of the third, and Basalt took a 32-24 halftime lead. Denver Christian was holding opponents to 39.5 points scored per game entering Thursday.The Longhorns’ suffocating zone and full-court pressure were also on display as Basalt forced 10 first-half turnovers and held the Crusaders to 31 percent shooting. “Their pressure on the outside really slowed us down, and we couldn’t get things going,” Mudd said. “They pulled [LeFebre] away from the basket, and she was out of the mix for enough time to make it hard to come back.
“Even in the fourth, we didn’t dent [the deficit] for a while. I was thinking to myself, ‘We just wasted a minute and we didn’t close.'”The Crusaders wasted very few possessions down the stretch in the fourth as they whittled a double-digit deficit to a one possession game. Still, Mulcahy said she never thought the outcome was in doubt.”When it comes down to it, we’re great under pressure,” she said.They showed it Thursday and will now face Faith Christian (22-3). The Eagles, the 3A Metro conference champion, advanced easily with a 51-33 win over No. 3 St. Mary’s earlier Thursday.
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