This year’s edition of the 1A state basketball tournament, in both girls’ and boys’ divisions, was one for the books as the athletes from southeastern Colorado represented at a high level of play leaving no doubt to those in the state who pay attention that basketball in this neck of the woods is hard to beat, to say the least. When the dust had cleared in the girls’ division, Kit Carson had won their first-ever state championship defeating Fleming 55-33, the South Baca girls brought home some 3rd place hardware with a 51-45 win over Heritage Christian, and Eads, even though they stumbled in the consolation championship losing to Briggsdale, 54-44, brought home some much needed experience the young team can use as they prepare for a run next year.
Coach Trey Eder’s group played three tough teams and was in every single game as they learned to battle through scoring runs, defensive let downs, and pressure free throw shooting. They were forged by fire and Coach Eder hopes his very young and inexperienced players came out of the experience with some better understanding of what it takes to become a champion.
Coach Eder commented about the tournament, “It was not an easy road for us to make it to the state tournament but the girls took on the challenges and embraced their roles and stepped up and played well. We took a good Heritage Christian team down to the end and came up short, but played well. Then the girls came back the next morning having to play in a tough game after losing the night prior and showed why they were one of the final 8 teams. We played an Antonito team that came into the tournament undefeated and the girls responded and played probably our best team basketball and came away with a victory and chance to play for the consolation championship. Briggsdale was a tough team and we came up short but played hard until the end.”
The Eads girls did battle through a tough bracket losing in the quarterfinal opening to #2 Heritage Christian, 46-37, and then defeating Antonito the next morning, 51-41. They battled Briggsdale through four quarters before losing the consolation championship on the free throw line, 54-44. They came away with no hardware, but gained very valuable experience they can use to build on next year.
Coach Eder knew his young team would have to contend with a group from Heritage Christian (#2) that was senior-laden and had tremendous size. The Eagles were led by 6’3 senior Sarah McGinley who was averaging over 20 points per game. Eder elected to put a box-and-one defensive set on McGinley and it worked for the first half as the young Eagles held the big girl to just 7 points, one coming off of a rare three-ball look. Eads outscored Heritage Christian in the first stanza, 9-7, and then stayed pretty even into the second period leading at the break, 16-15. The first half scoring came from the usual triangle of Mariah Smith, Miranda Mitchek, and Kaylee Wilson. Eder had Lauren Spady and Hadlie Rittgers rotating to guard the big girl in the box-and-one set. Unfortunately, Eder’s defensive set didn’t work as well into the second half as the Heritage Christian group adjusted and although they continued to hold down McGinley, the rest of the team took the ballgame upon themselves and hit some key shots down the stretch. Eads was outscored 14-6 in the third and that would be the decider as the young Eads group could not find enough fire power to catch up. Smith and Rittgers had tremendous fourth quarters for the Eads group but Heritage Christian made their free throws when they needed to and shut the quarterfinal round out for Eads.
Smith and Mitchek led in the game with 15 and 11 points respectively.
The Lady Eagles showed a lot of spunk to come out of such a tough loss and play with great energy the next morning. Eads jumped out to a huge lead in the first period, 13-5, behind an amazing performance by Smith who actually scored the first seven points for the Eagles. Brenna Rouse added a dagger of a three ball late in the period and Eads was off to the races. Only Joslyn Garcia and Erykah Tallman would score for the Antonito group to start the game. Eads got into some foul trouble into the second period and were quickly in the bonus which allowed Antonito to shoot a number of free throws. They would hit 4-for-5 in that quarter, a stat that allowed them to outscore Eads. By halftime, Eads still had the advantage, 23-18. Eads started slow in the third period and allowed Antonito a fast bucket to challenge the Eagles to within three points. Wilson hit a huge three-ball at the 5:35 marker in the third to extend the Eads lead to 32-24 after a tough defensive quarter for the Eagles. But Antonito, who was not used to losing, was not finished just yet as they gave the young Eagles fits. Antonito came out strong and again scored right away applying full court pressure that caused three turnovers for Eads. In the defensive fray Garcia hit her second three-ball and just like that her team was threatening the young Eagles. Wilson came back and hit a big bucket and Mitchek, too, stole the ball to answer the Antonito threat. Garcia then hit her third long ball and coach Eder called time out. Eads came out tough and Wilson hit another key basket to get a little breathing room, 38-32, but then Sanchez hit a back-breaker of a long ball and brought the Antonito group to within a single point at the 3:28 point. As Smith continued to battle the boards and the Eads guards struggled to move the ball against Antonito’s full court aggressive play, Mitchek managed to hit a gutsy three-ball with 2:50 left that extended Eads’ lead to 46-39. Mitchek then stole the ball on the next Antonito possession and Spady was fouled in the act of shooting. She made them both to seal the deal for the Eagles. That fourth quarter was pure excitement as Eads managed to outscore Antonito, 19-17. It was a major win for the Eagles as they learned how to hold the lead using a high level of intensity to do so.
For Eads it was the triangle of Smith, Wilson, and Mitchek—again, that did the damage as Wilson and Mitchek each had 13 points and Smith contributed 12 points. Rebound stats were not available but Smith will more than likely have a double-double when they are tabulated.
The win moved Eads to a consolation championship date with Briggsdale. This is a tough, tournament-experienced team. The Briggsdale game represented yet another close, nail-biter of a contest that had Eagle fans on their feet. Eads struggled to get going in the first stanza as the Lady Falcons used six different players to score 15 points to Eads’ nine. Mitchek hit a three ball in the stanza and Rouse had a great start with a couple of jumpers. The Eads girls turned up the heat into the second period, however, as Smith became a force to reckon with, as did Wilson’s hot mid-range shooting. After a Rouse 3 ball that ignited Eads, Wilson would hit a jumper to get Eads back in the game trailing by a single bucket at the intermission, 23-21. Both teams came out unfocused to start the third period. Eads would have three straight turnovers and 3 straight fouls before they got on track. Luckily, the Falcons were cold and couldn’t take advantage of the slow start made by the Lady Eagles. When Mitchek got a steal and a layup at the 4:20 mark of the third the score was tied, 25-25. Throughout the rest the third quarter the two teams would knot up four more times leaving the third quarter at a draw, 34-34.
Eads started great in their final quarter of the 2016-17 season as Smith hit a bucket and then Wilson got a steal and a layup and all of a sudden the Lady Eagles were up by four, 38-34. But the Briggsdale full-court pressure finally caught up with Eads as they struggled with fatigue missing a number of shots and forcing some turnovers. Midway through the period, Briggsdale went on a 10-0 run as the tired Eagles battled to hold on. And battle they did as a couple of times Eads would come back into the deficit. With 3:11 left, Mitchek hit a huge 3 ball to ignite Eads pulling within five point, 46-41. But then Eads fouled Suppes, already in the bonus, and she converted. As the full court pressure continued Mitchek managed to pull another three ball out of her bag of tricks with 2:20 left, again pulling Eads to within five, 49-44. But that would be as close as the Lady Eagles could get as they were forced to foul and the Falcons made 10-of-12 down the stretch.
Mitchek led all players with 15 points, while Wilson netted 11, and Smith chipped in 9 more.
Coach Eder wrapped up the season by saying, “With having no seniors we gained valuable experience this year and look to build off this year and improve and make a run to bring home a trophy next year.”