It was a game of scoring droughts but ThunderRidge’s was really costly.
The Arapahoe girls notched a 38-29 victory over the Grizzlies in a Sweet 16 playoff game on Feb. 24.
ThunderRidge went close to 10 minutes without scoring, which proved to be devastating for the Grizzlies in the quarterfinal contest.
Arapahoe coach Jerry Knafelc credited his team’s good defense for the decisive turn in the game.
“Our kids played really good defense,” said Knafelc. “Our kids can really defend.”
Arapahoe actually trailed 9-4 with 3:30 left in the first period when the Grizzlies started shooting blanks. ThunderRidge went 9:55 without a point until Kyrah Daniels hit a free throw with 2:35 left in the second period.
The Warriors ended the first half with a 21-1 run, which gave Arapahoe a 25-10 lead at halftime.
However, in the second half, it was Arapahoe that didn’t shoot well as ThunderRidge stormed back to make it a close finish.
“We didn’t do enough to separate ourselves and they did enough to keep it close,” pointed out Knafelc. “It was really on us for missing shots in the third quarter. We were playing good enough defense but we missed some shots.”
ThunderRidge pulled to within 29-23 with 7:05 left in the game when Gianna Smith scored four straight points for Arapahoe to swell its lead to 10 points.
“She’s a tough player,” said Knafelc. “She is a great sophomore. She’s going to be unbelievable. She’s pretty unbelievable already.”
The closest ThunderRidge (17-8) could get the rest of the game was within five points with 1:29 to play.
“We just played good defense,” emphasized Knafelc. “White was just outstanding at the line and Emily Thomas did a great job on handling the pressure.”
Smith finished with 12 points including two 3-point baskets in the first half. Senior Sydney White had 10 points and made four free throws in the final 1:13 of the game.
Besides eighth-seeded Arapahoe, other south metro teams to advance to the Elite Eight were top-seeded Valor Christian, No. 2 Cherry Creek and No. 3 Highlands Ranch.
Arapahoe (19-6) will face Valor (22-2), Cherry Creek goes against Doherty (19-6) and Highlands Ranch (22-3) must play Grandview (16-9). The Elite Eight games will be held March 4 at the Denver Coliseum.
Macey Huard had 29 points and Quinn Vansickle had 15 as Valor romped to s 60-37 Sweet 16 win over Legend on Feb. 22. Cherry Creek eliminated Pine Creek 57-40 while Highlands Ranch beat Eaglecrest 54-34.
“We’ve got to get ready for Valor,” said Knafelc. “We played them early in the season. It was a big game and they won (57-44). They are a really good team.”
In first round 6A games played Feb. 21, Valor used 19 points from Vansickle and a double double from Huard of 17 points and 11 rebounds to eliminate Mountain Vista 79-30.
Legend shot only 29 percent but still edged Arvada West 31-29 and ThunderRidge got past Columbine 46-26.
Sophomore Braelynn Barnett had 15 points in Cherry Creek’s 50-29 victory over Chatfield. Highlands Ranch used a big second half to down Westminster 52-39 as Tori Baker and Ezra Simonich each had 18 points. Fountain Fort Carson downed Rock Canyon 77-62 and Grandview ousted Douglas County, 57-27.
Littleton opened the 5A playoffs with a 44-32 win over Greeley Central as Dalana Jakovljevic had 14 points and 14 rebounds. Air Academy defeated the Lions, 53-42 in the second round despite 21 points from Littleton’s Jacy Chandler.
In the Class 4A playoffs, Lutheran pounded DSST:Byers, 71-18, in a first round game as both Raelyn Kelly and Berkley Schneider each scored 17 points. The Lions, seeded fourth, downed Resurrection Christian, 57-37, in a Sweet 16 game. The Lions (22-3) will face Berthoud (15-10) in an Elite Eight game on March 3 at the Denver Coliseum.