Early season tests Middle Park girls basketball team
Sky-Hi Daily News
Middle Park High’s girls basketball team, whose lineup is filled with first-year varsity players, went through a baptism of fire as they lost consecutive games to open the 2007-08 season.
The Lady Panthers fell in two games to Colorado Academy and Clear Creek last weekend during the Clear Creek Invitational in Idaho Springs. Then in their first home game Tuesday, Middle Park’s hoopsters lost to Weld Central.
“We look on these first preseason games as a way to work out the kinks and get ready for the Metro League when it really counts,” said coach Cheri Amos. “I think we’ll be ready when league play begins.”
The Lady Panthers are in a rebuilding year after graduating six seniors last spring. This year’s team has only two seniors, who are both returning varsity players.
Middle Park’s players received their first taste of varsity competition in last Friday’s season-opening game at the Clear Creek Invitational. Taking on Colorado Academy, the Lady Panthers were beaten 37-21.
In the first quarter, Colorado Academy jumped out to a commanding 13-0 lead. In the second quarter, Middle Park picked up five points but their opponents led at halftime 22-5.
“In the first half, we played shell-shocked by the pace of the game,” Amos said. “Eight of our 11 players had never played in a varsity game before that game and it showed.”
During halftime, the Lady Panthers pulled themselves together and came back out on the court to play a much improved game.
“We settled down and started to pick up the pace of the game that had to be played,” Amos said. “It was as if we were an entirely different team in the second half. We played much improved and ended up actually outscoring Colorado Academy by a point.”
Amos commended the play of point guard Shelley McLean, a junior.
“Shelley scored well and got us back into the game. “She earned six points for the game,” she said.
Also receiving praise was junior Lindsey Birdseye, a guard who scored five points. Amos described her as the team’s “sparkplug who moved the ball well.”
Loss by one point
With the momentum of their second-half play behind them, the Lady Panthers went into Saturday’s tournament against the host Clear Creek team. In a hard-fought, close battle, the Golddiggers emerged victors by one point, 38-37.
“Our hustle was great throughout that game with our girls working every second,” Amos said. “It was a tremendous improvement over our first game.”
Clear Creek took an initial 8-4 lead in the first quarter, but Middle Park hung tight up to halftime. In the third quarter, the Lady Panthers narrowed the gap to three points and almost captured the lead before the clock ran out.
“In the actual play of the game, we outscored them, but it was our penalties that did us in,” Amos said. “We committed 23 personal fouls which allowed them to score 17 points from the free throw line.”
Middle Park’s scoring was led by Katelyn Anderson who earned eight points and Kristin Van Horn who made seven. Rachel Linke posted five points for the game.
“Ten of our 11 girls scored, which showed we had a balanced offense. That was a definite improvement over our first game,” Amos said.
Another good indicator was that the Lady Panthers also protected the ball well, giving up only four turnovers.
“I’m very pleased amount the small number of turnovers,” Amos said. “But I’m not satisfied at all with our rebounding. We had only a combined total of 13. That’s something we’ve got to work on.”
In Tuesday’s first home game, the Lady Panthers were pitted against the powerhouse team from Weld Central. When the dust cleared, Middle Park had fallen hard 49-19.
While this lopsided loss may appear severe, Amos points out it was actually a small victory for the home team.
“Last year, Weld Central beat us by 65 points, so we were much improved this time,” she said. “We held their 6 foot, 1 inch star player to only 12 points instead of the 27 she scored against us last year. That was huge.”
In the game’s opening quarter, Weld Central jumped out to a 17-5 lead, but Middle Park defense started to kick in during the second quarter to allow only nine points.
While the defense held strong, the Lady Panthers’ offcnse was unable to break through to score very often.
“We again controlled the ball well, allowing only four turnovers,” Amos said. “But what we need to look at is going in and attacking the basket. “Defensively, we were all over them, but we’ve got to work on that offense.
“Despite that, we still forced Weld Central to use their best players.”
One area of play by the team that Amos was particularly pleased with was its rebounding.
“We earned 27 rebounds, which was a huge improvement,” she said. “Nichole Fuqua was really tough on the boards, earning eight rebounds. Shelley McLean made seven of those rebounds.”
Once again, the team had a balanced offense with nine of the 11 players scoring. McLean was the high scorer with four points.
While Middle Park’s varsity is still searching for its first win, the Lady Panther junior varsity already has two victories in the win category.
In Friday’s Clear Creek Tournament, Middle Park’s JVs beat Colorado Academy 34-14. Lihla Clancy was the high scorer with 14 points, followed by Quincey Pedersen with eight.
The junior varsity’s second win came Saturday with a 27-18 victory over Denver Christian. It was the Lady Panther JVs’ first-ever win against that team. Lihla Clancy was the high scorer with 12 points, followed by Cindy Hobbs with 10.
Middle Park’s girls will be competing in two days of home games this weekend.
Today, the Lady Panthers host West Grand’s Lady Mustangs. The junior varsity game starts at 4 p.m. with the varsity game following at 5:30 p.m.
On Saturday, Middle Park will play host to Battle Mountain. The JV game is slated for 2:30 p.m. with the varsity contest set at 4 p.m.
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