Heading into their season opening game against Class 3A Montezuma-Cortez High School, members of the Class 2A Dolores High School girls basketball team were a bit intimidated by the thought of playing a school three times their size.
After realizing that they could keep up with the Lady Panthers however, the Lady Bears settled down and played one of their finest games in recent memory during what ended up being a 38-30 win.
“(M-CHS) was pretty intimidating at first,” Dolores senior Sydney Smith said. “We just had to get everything that we were doing in practice going and then we started to get the hang of it and it was a little bit easier. We just listened to our coach, (Tiffany Hill), and pulled through at the end.”
Among the leaders on both sides of the floor for the Lady Bears were junior Allie Kibel and senior Akira Edwards, who played stellar defense on M-CHS guards and scored 14 points and 11 points, respectively.
On several occasions during the contest, the dynamic Dolores duo, who joined their teammates in wearing masks as mandated by the Colorado Activities Association, stole the ball in the backcourt before rushing up court and attacking the rim for easy layups and assists to open jump shooters.
“Honestly, it has been a tough ride sucking air through a mask,” Edwards said. “It makes it a lot harder, but it’s not going to stop us from pushing through the whole game.”
Although Edwards, Kibel, and their teammates ultimately came out on top, they were far from the only players producing highlights as several M-CHS players stepped up big for second-year head coach Brad Wright’s team.
Among them was freshman Savannah Haselroth, who showcased her defensive skills while maintaining aggression on the offensive end in route to a team high 11 points. Junior Tina Bayles chipped in 11 points for the Lady Panthers and freshman Carlie McClellan scored 5.
After Dolores built a 10-6 lead by the end of the first quarter, M-CHS fought back and tied the game at nineteen heading into halftime thanks a layup by McClellan just before the half.
The game remained close throughout a hotly contested third quarter before a late burst by Dolores, which was keyed by a Kibel jump shot and several solid defensive plays and a layup by Edwards helped the Lady Bears build a 25-21 lead.
“Pressuring the ball, especially to their off side is a really big thing in basketball,” said Edwards, who added that applying pressure on the defensive side of the ball was the key to her team’s victory. “It was a lot of work (to pressure the ball), but it was definitely worth the effort.”
As the fourth quarter got underway and both teams fought for control, M-CHS began to find its rhythm and eventually tied the game, 29-29, before Dolores began to seize control.
What was arguably the biggest shot of the fourth quarter involved a bit of luck when Edwards banked in a long 3-pointer with just over a minute to go to put her team ahead 36-30 and all but ice the victory.
“(Three-point shooting) is something that I like to work on when I go to shoot hoops because I’m an outside guard,” Edwards said. “Shooting is just a big thing for me. I’ve been working on 3’s and shots from the outside because I don’t usually get on the inside.”
Thanks to their big win, the Lady Bears will carry a 1-0 record into their next contest, which will come on the road against Nucla on Feb. 5. M-CHS will look to win its first game of the year when it hits the road to face Durango on Feb. 5.
“We can definitely get better on forced errors and making sure that we know what we’re doing with the ball instead of forcing the ball inside,” said Smith, when asked how the Lady Bears can improve. “I think that if we just slow down and apply the things that we’re doing in practice, we’ll be very effective.”