Longhorns in it for the long haul

Jon MaletzAspen, CO Colorado
Longhorns senior Amy Lund hugs teammate Cassie Meyer on Saturday after defeating Hotchkiss in a 3A state tournament second-round game at Basalt High School. The Longhorns will play Thursday against Denver Christian in the Great 8 at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. (Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)

BASALT When it was her turn to climb the ladder and, with scissors in hand, cut down the nets Saturday, Basalt coach Carolyn Compton wasn’t sure exactly what to do. If her team keeps playing – and winning – like it has the past two days, Compton may have another chance to practice next weekend. The Longhorns, who posted a convincing 44-point victory in Friday’s 3A state tournament opener against Eaton, continued its postseason dominance in Saturday’s sub-region final against Hotchkiss. Basalt, which beat the Bulldogs on its run to a district title one week ago, clinched a spot in the state’s “Great 8″ with a 76-52 win.The No. 1 Longhorns (20-4) will head to Colorado State University Thursday to play No. 3 Denver Christian at Moby Arena. While Basalt coasted through its sub-region, the Crusaders had a much more difficult time advancing; they snuck past No. 6 Bayfield, 55-51, in Friday’s first round, then outlasted No. 7 Buena Vista Saturday for a two-point win.”Our word this week was dominance, and I think we showed that,” Compton said. “Hotchkiss played us hard and we came out a little flat. They weren’t here to lose, and didn’t want to lose to us for the fourth time.”The Bulldogs’ patience on offense helped them jump out to an early first-quarter lead. After Basalt’s Cassie Meyer opened the game with a layup, Bulldogs guards Jessica Miller and Stephanie Spor scored on consecutive drives in the lane. Samanatha Wood buried a long jumper a few possessions later, giving Hotchkiss an 8-5 lead midway through the quarter. The lead seesawed from there as both teams strung together 6-0 runs. Moments after she was inserted into the lineup, Basalt’s Alia Munger buried a long 3-pointer from the corner to give Basalt the 16-15 advantage. Hotchkiss’ Tori Henri answered right back with a shot in the lane and, after a free throw from Basalt’s Dayne Toney, teammate Amber Barnes sank a 10-footer at the buzzer to give the Bulldogs a 19-17 lead.

Basalt utilized its size advantage on the boards to open strong in the second quarter. Dayne Toney pulled down an offensive board off a missed Katy Mulcahy free throw, absorbed some contact, finished the put-back and drew the foul. When she missed her free throw, Meyer was there to finish, giving the Longhorns a 22-19 advantage. Meyer had eight points in the quarter. Longhorns junior Emily Peez dropped to the floor to corral a loose ball with a minute and a half remaining, then fired a pass from her knees to an open Meyer underneath. Meyer then stepped back for a jumper from the corner – it hit the rim, bounced straight up then fell through the cylinder. Still, Basalt could not distance itself from the Bulldogs, who closed on a 5-0 run capped by Spor’s 3-pointer at the buzzer to pull to within one at the break.”We played so well in the first half. I wish we didn’t have halftime,” Hotchkiss coach Dan Burke said. “In the third, we weren’t attacking as well. Then their shots started falling. “As they say in the West, Basalt had too many bullets in their arsenal.” Basalt’s 28-2 second quarter run sealed Friday’s game with Eaton. In the third quarter Saturday, it went on a 25-6 run to open up the game. It extended its defensive pressure to near halfcourt, cut down penetration and frustrated Bulldogs ballhandlers with a mix of zone and man-to-man defense. On offense, the Longhorns were just as hard to contain as they attacked from both inside and outside. In addition to scoring in transition and in the paint, the Longhorns sank three from long range, including two from Peetz. Meyer jumped in front of a pass in the quarter’s waning seconds, pushed the ball upcourt and scored in transition, stretching the lead to 20. “We knew we wanted to go to state,” Meyer said. “This wasn’t the time to play soft.”The Longhorns continued to pressure Hotchkiss in the fourth quarter, turning a one-point game at the break into a runaway 24-point win. Compton said her piece of the net will go in a scrapbook. She’s hoping this week’s trip to Fort Collins produces memories to fill a few more pages.”We’re excited,” she said. “We’re glad to be going to state, but we won’t be happy just to be there.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is