Sierra High School’s girls basketball team has their eyes on the prize, which is the coveted Class 4A state championship.
They’re on the road to success after the 11-seeded Stallions sent the No. 44-seeded Rifle Bears into hibernation with a 63-31 second-round win on Friday night at Sierra High School.
“I think this win was really good because some of the girls came off the bench and played so well,” said senior Annalisa Mileto. “This is my last year so I’m happy that we’re playing like this right now.”
Sierra’s win means a trip to the Sweet 16 on March 3 against No. 6 seed Thompson Valley.
The Stallions (19-4) gave up the opening bucket then proceeded to blitz the Bears (10-15). Sierra capitalized on a 9-2 run and closed the quarter ahead 17-9.
They repeated their output in the second and held Rifle to 7 points to take a 34-16 lead to the break.
At one point in the first half, Sierra forced six consecutive Bears turnovers and held Rifle scoreless for just over five minutes.
“Practice – we do defensive drills every day,” Mileto said. “That’s one thing I’ll say we’re really good at. We know we have to keep that going to be a solid team.”
Stallions coach Joseph Williams believes it as well, and encouraged Sierra to continue its onslaught in the second half.
“He always tells us we have to put our foot in their necks and twist,” Mileto said.
Metaphorically, of course, the Stallions did just that, and allowed only 17 points in the second half and 33 for
the game — the third fewest allowed in a game this season.
Senior D’Nae Wilson did her usual dazzling and poured in a game-high 22 points. Fellow senior Azari Lacour added 17 in the game. Lacour’s 10-second sequence in the fourth highlighted the Stallions’ domination on both ends.
With 1:30 on the clock, the Bears fired a pass to half court. Lacour snuffed it out near the half-court sideline and kept it in play.
She dribbled down court, looked off the defender and delivered a behind-the-back pass to fire up the crowd.
“Our chemistry is so good because we play together throughout the summer,” Lacour said. “We have a lot of team bonding to get to know each other better, which helps us know each other better on the court.”
The Stallions travel to Loveland to face the Eagles on Tuesday, and they know to keep focused on the goal during this road trip.
“We’re going for that ring — we know what we have to do,” Lacour said. “We have to stay locked in.”
“We have a lot of team bonding to get to know each other better, which helps us know each other better on the court.” — Azari Lacour
Panthers defeat rival in second round
Harrison’s quest for a state title began Saturday with a 55-28 win over Sierra at Thorpe Gymnasium in the Class 4A boys state basketball playoffs. Both teams last met in the postseason March 2, 2006 where Harrison bested Sierra 60-58.
Harrison (19-4) will host No. 10-seed Pueblo West on Wednesday in the Sweet 16 at 7 p.m.
Sierra (10-14) hoped to avenge the ’06 postseason loss but Harrison, the No. 7 seed, stymied the Stallions all game with stifling defense.
“We played a modified (2-3) zone and played intense,” said senior CJ Harris. “We work on it all the time in practice and don’t let anyone beat us. If we don’t let them beat us, we don’t have to worry about help side (defense). We did that (Saturday).”
After Harrison built a 13-9 first quarter lead, the Panthers froze the Stallions’ offense.
The Panthers allowed 9 points total in the second and third quarters and scored 28 to build a 41-18 lead after three.
“It felt great to come out here as a team and play intense,” Harris said. “We did everything we knew we were supposed to do.”
Harris picked up the slack for the Panthers in the first with 6 of Harrison’s 11 points and 8 points for the game.
“I always like to come out strong,” Harris said. “If there’s anything I can do, I like to set the example. If I’m the most intense on the floor, everyone can follow that as an example.”
Junior Tayzhean Archuleta chipped in 14 to balance the Panthers’ scoring load. That included a trio of deep 3-pointers throughout the game to keep the momentum in Harrison’s favor.
“I’m kind of used to it,” Archuleta said of the deep 3-pointers in front of a packed house. “I love that environment and the crowd going crazy. It makes me play better.”
Junior Donta Dawson, who leads the team in scoring with 18.6 points per game, didn’t hit his first field goal until 5:20 remained in the third quarter. He hit six free throws in the second and third quarters, though, and finished with 10 points. But they didn’t need Dawson’s best performance, as the Panthers had eight players score.
“This is a great push for us,” Archuleta said. “We want to go farther into the tournament and we hope to take it all.”
“This is a great push for us. We want to go farther into the tournament and we hope to take it all.” —Tayzhean Archuleta
The Panthers need no extra motivation for Wednesday’s game. The Cyclones defeated the Panthers on a 3-point buzzer-beater Dec. 19. Harrison understands it has to adapt its game plan to advance to the Great 8.
“We’re gonna be alright,” Archuleta said. “We just have to adjust and make sure we play team ball and we’ll be fine.”