Kremmling " Mustang girls can’t overcome giving up large, early leads |

Kremmling " Mustang girls can’t overcome giving up large, early leads

The West Grand Mustang girls basketball team nearly rallied from a 12- point halftime deficit against Rangely on Saturday, but the visiting Panthers withstood the challenge and took home a 42-28 victory.

The Mustangs also lost to North Park, 57-33, on Thursday night. In each game, the Mustangs dug an early hole by allowing the opposing to jump to a 10-point lead after one quarter of play.

“It is always difficult to recover from an early deficit,” coach Larry Banman said. “It changes the complexion of the game and you end up battling both the other team’s defense as well as the deficit. It can make the battle seem even worse.”

On Saturday, West Grand came out in the second half with some fire. Employing a different defensive scheme, the Mustangs held Rangely scoreless for more than 10 minutes. During that time, West Grand was able to chip away at the lead, but not enough to get closer than five points.

Brook Cecil hit a three-pointer at the end of the third quarter to bring West Grand within seven points. The Mustangs also scored the first two points of the fourth quarter.

“I thought we may have caught the wind of momentum,” Banman said. “It would have been so sweet, especially for our senior players, to be able to pull off the comeback.”

Making their last home appearance for West Grand were seniors Jessica Elliott, Jordan Davidson, Stephanie Stubbs and Angie O’Neill. Elliott and Davidson are four-year members of the basketball program at West Grand, while Stubbs and O’Neill are first-year players for the Mustangs. All four are part of the regular rotation employed by coach Banman.

Davidson has battled injuries and illness for most of the season but has regained her defensive savvy and quickness. Elliott has the high-point game of the year with a 23-point effort against South Park. She has also anchored the defense all season and continued to shoot her reliable baseline jumper.

O’Neill had perhaps her best game of the year in an early-season thrilling comeback victory against Soroco. She has been a consistently strong presence on the defensive boards all year. Stubbs has progressed all season to the point where she has become one of West Grand’s top rebounders as well as an offensive threat.

“Our four seniors have been great leaders for the team. Their effort has been consistent throughout the season,” Banman said. “They will be sorely missed.”

Stubbs was the leading rebounder with 11 rebounds, four of those off of the offensive glass. O’Neill grabbed seven boards while Rose Hargadine and Brook Cecil led the team in blocks with four apiece.

Renea Ellison led the team in four steals and she and Hargadine led the team in assists with two apiece.

Cecil was the leading scorer for West Grand with 13 points. For Rangely, freshman Victoria Phelan led the team in scoring with 13 points, including two three-pointers. Erin Watson scored 11 for the Panthers and Hillary Hayes added nine to the total.

Early in the game, Hayes and Watson were able to get Rangely started fast with 10 points in the first quarter. The Mustangs then changed their strategy and worked on denying the ball to the two post players. O’Neill, Stubbs and Hargadine were given the primary responsibility for defending the interior and they helped hold the two post players to a total of three field goals over the remainder of the game.

On Thursday, the Mustangs fell victim to a rapidly improving North Park squad coached by Randy Hodgson. After the early deficit, the Mustangs started to crawl back into the game and had several defensive stops.

“We just weren’t able to get any offense generated during that stretch when they were struggling,” Banman added.

A 25-point fourth quarter sealed the deal for the Wildcats, as sophomore Kaitlyn Hanson sank three long range shots and score a total of 11 points in the frame.

“I was happy with the way we ended the game,” coach Banman said. “On a miserable night in Walden, it would have been easy to coast to the wire. I felt our team showed its character by battling to the end.”

The fourth quarter was also marked by points from several of the younger players for West Grand. Sophomore Erin Beason, freshman Taylor Pesch and sophomore Melissa Kraker were all able to score in the frame.

For the night Cecil led the team in scoring with eight points while Stubbs scored seven and Beason had a total of six points. Hargadine had seven rebounds and three blocks for West Grand. Stubbs had six rebounds and three blocks and Cecil led the team in steals with four.

Hanson led the Wildcats in scoring with 17 points while Kelsey Souza scored 15. Hillary Rizor added 10 for North Park.

This weekend the Mustangs face two of the top teams in the league as they travel to Plateau Valley on Friday night and then finish the regular season against Paonia on Saturday. The Mustangs are now 6-9 for the season and 0-6 in league play. The game that was scheduled this past weekend against Hayden will not be played.

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