Basketball: W. Grand girls improve to 6-2 with three-win streak
Sky-Hi Daily News
The first week of competition for the West Grand High School girls basketball team brought the team a three-game winning streak.
The Lady Mustangs beat Clear Creek, 40-36, at home on Tuesday night and then hit the road and brought home two victories. West Grand defeated Soroco on Friday night, 36-32, and South Park on Saturday, 50-37.
“It was a tough stretch of games,” coach Larry Banman said, “and I am proud of the way the girls responded to playing tough games in tough environments. They really displayed a lot of character and we are starting to build some mental toughness.”
The toughest game of the stretch was the victory over the Soroco Rams on Friday night in Oak Creek. The Rams are a Western Slope League opponent, but the game played on Friday will not be used to determine league standings. The home game later this season will count as the league game.
The Mustangs started strong and built a 10-4 lead. The Rams bring a scrappy style of play that bothered West Grand enough to turn the game around in the second quarter. Soroco outscored the Mustangs 17-3 to take a 21-13 lead at the half.
“At halftime we talked about getting back to playing our style of play,” Banman noted.
The third quarter was a defensive struggle, with West Grand outscoring Soroco, 5-3.
The momentum shifted, however, and the Mustangs outscored Soroco, 18-8, in the final frame to pull away to the victory.
“We cut down on our mental errors and started to rely on our strengths,” Banman said.
Angie O’Neill came off of the bench and gave the Mustangs a big lift with 11 rebounds to lead the team in that category.
Brook Cecil led the team in scoring with 14 points, while Jessica Elliott scored 10 for the Mustangs. Elliott came up with the key shot of the game when West Grand had the ball and a one-point lead with less than a minute to play. The senior hit a 10-foot baseline jumper to give the Mustangs a three-point lead.
Soroco missed a shot on the ensuing possession and fouled Elliott, who hit one of the two freethrows to give West Grand the final four- point margin of victory.
Rose Hargadine helped the Mustangs dominate the middle on defense as she blocked six shots and grabbed six defensive rebounds.
Stephanie Stubbs led the team in steals with three.
In the Tuesday night victory over Clear Creek, Hargadine led the team in scoring with 19 points. The 6-foot junior post player stepped out on the perimeter and hit four three pointers out of five attempts.
Elliott scored 10 points and Cecil chipped in with seven points.
The Mustangs built a 13-point lead midway through the fourth quarter and then saw it slip down to three points as Clear Creek shot 11 free throws in the final frame.
In the final two minutes, the Mustangs regained control of the game as junior point guard Renea Ellison hit four pressure-packed freethrows to ice the game.
The Golddiggers shot 20 freethrows to only eight for West Grand, but the Mustangs were able to hit six of their opportunities.
“It was kind of a typical ‘first-game-after-the-break’ kind of game,” Banman said. “I was pleased with the way the team regained its composure and was able to withstand the late defensive pressure from Clear Creek.”
Against the Burros of South Park, West Grand was able to jump to an early lead and build on that advantage throughout the game.
Elliott led the team in scoring with 23 points. The strategy of the Burros was to put a lot of pressure on the Mustangs with a full-court press. West Grand made them pay with a number of fastbreak baskets.
Ellison scored eight points, Stubbs put in seven points and Hargadine chipped with six points.
The Mustangs had 26 opportunities from the charity stripe in a roughly played game. West Grand was able to convert on 10 of those shots.
Stubbs played her best game of the year, Banman said, and was really aggressive on the defensive boards.
“I was pleased with the total team effort it took to earn three victories this week,” Banman said. “We had three different leading scorers. In each game, we had people step up and make key contributions. I am also happy with the way the bench players are starting to become very effective when they play. This is a very fun team to be associated with.”
The Mustangs are now 6-2 for the season and start league play with a road contest against Hayden on Friday night. West Grand then hosts North Park on Saturday.
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