Halfway through its home game against Nucla High School on Jan. 31, things did not look good for the Dolores High School girls basketball team.
Two second-half 3-pointers by sophomore Erin Brown and energetic defense from junior Allie Kibel turned the tide, however, as the Lady Bears erased their five-point halftime deficit and delivered a thrilling 36-30 victory to home fans.
“We knew that we needed to come out in the second half stronger,” said Brown, who led her team with nine points. “We knew that we weren’t doing enough. We needed to get there on defense, not get stupid fouls, and play harder.”
Things were anything but smooth for the Lady Bears early as they managed just four points in the first quarter and trailed 21-9 with about four minutes left in the first half.
After a spirited halftime talk from coach Tiffany Hill and some adjustments to its offensive and defensive schemes, however, Dolores looked like a different team early in the third quarter and soon turned its five-point halftime deficit into a four-point lead.
Brown’s two 3-pointers from the right wing keyed a Dolores’ 9-0 run to begin the second half and after knocking down her second long bomb of the game, Brown clapped her hands before playfully shrugging and smiling in the direction of Hill.
“Today when we were warming up, I made two threes, and I was like, I’m going to make a 3 in today’s game,” said Brown, who has not been known for longirange shooting. “I was open twice, and it just happened.”
The Dolores defense was sparked by Kibel, who energized her team by pouncing on several loose balls and coming through with several steals.
The junior’s biggest moment of the contest came late in the second quarter when she drove hard to the basket and drew a foul in traffic before flipping the ball up and over the rim with her right hand in a manner that drew loud cheers from the crowd.
“(The layup and the steals) were pretty big,” Kibel said. “They brought our team up and got us into the game.”
Ahead 26-24 entering the fourth quarter, yet seemingly in complete control of the game, Dolores extended its lead to 28-24 after a baseline jumper by sophomore Ashaunee Begay and later extended its lead to 30-26 after two free throws by senior Brenn Jeter.
A layup by junior Sam Castillo with 1:30 left and three free throws by Kibel over the final 1:08 allowed Dolores to get its second consecutive San Juan Basin League victory.
“We know we have two big league games next week,” Brown said. “We need to keep pushing to get those wins.”
Leading scorers for the Lady Bears included Kibel, who scored nine points, Brown, who scored eight points and Castillo, who scored seven points. Senior McKenzie Howerton chipped in five point for the Lady Bears and Jeter scored four.
Now 4-8 overall and 2-4 in the SJBL, Dolores will look ahead to a road matchup against Dove Creek on Tuesday and a road game in Ouray on Feb. 8.
“The area that we can still improve on is our offense,” Kibel said. “We have to be able to deal with the high pressure and everything from other teams.”