The Cedaredge girls' basketball team will return to Pueblo for the second straight year as a contestant in the 2016 2A State Basketball Tournament.
Cedaredge has two losses on its record and both of those setbacks came at the hands of Paonia High School. Paonia, also sporting a two-loss season, one of which was to Cedaredge, is also making the trip to state. Paonia will carry a No. 2 seed into this week's competition while the Bruins are seeded fourth.
Last year's state tournament action featured a matchup in the consolation bracket, which was won by the Eagles.
Cedaredge had some close calls on its way to state and two of those games were played last weekend in Rifle. The Bruins (No. 2 seed in Region 3 Pool 2) met No. 7 Clear Creek in first-round play on Friday. Cedaredge fought off a late rally by the Golddiggers for a 48-40 win.
In the title game on Saturday, Cedaredge had to use an extra period to
earn a state berth with a 69-61 decision.
Bruins 48, CCHS 40
Neither team was offensive-minded in the opening quarter of action. Cedaredge got five points from its playmaker, senior Nellie Freeman, and junior Hannah Gilmore added four counters in a 9-5 Bruins' edge.
Freeman scored seven points in the second frame, helping the Bruins post 14 points. Sophomore Rachel Lucas had five of Clear Creek's nine points over the same time span.
Cedaredge's 23-14 halftime lead grew by four as Freeman added six more points to her totals in a 13-9 Bruin run.
The Golddiggers' Sam O'Brien had five of her eight points in the fourth quarter, sparking a 17-12 Clear Creek charge. O'Brien's efforts were too little and too late, however, and the Bruins claimed a 48-40 victory and a shot at the Pool 2 championship.
Freeman's 21 points were the most scored by a player in the game. Gilmore added another 13 to the winning cause for Cedaredge.
Sophomore Grace Werlin had at least two points in each of the four quarters and finished with 15 points for the Golddiggers (18-5).
Pool 2 Title Game
CHS 69, UCP 61 (OT)
In a game where each team took turns having impacting runs, the Cedaredge Bruins delivered the last, and decisive, punch in an exciting title matchup.
Union Colony Prep (18-5) finished second in the District 7 standings and featured a senior-ladened team (eight).
The Timberwolves took a two-point lead, 15-13, after one quarter of back-and-forth action.
Cedaredge had its turn to win a back-and-forth, 18-16, second quarter that left teams deadlocked at 31-31 at the break. Freeman and Gilmore provided the punch for Cedaredge in the period with eight and five points respectively. Lauryn Arnold and Kiona Wright had six points each for the Timberwolves.
A hot-shooting Gil-more funneled eight points through the net as Cedaredge delivered what was considered a game-winning punch in a 17-5 third quarter run, and a 48-36 lead.
Not so fast was the message delivered by Union Colony. A torrid 21-12 run silenced the Cedaredge crowd and tied the game, 57-57, forcing an overtime period. Senior Maddy Melsness provided the spark for the Timberwolves with all 11 of her points in the fourth quarter run, including three shots from beyond the arc. Wright contributed six points in the game-tying run.
The Bruins needed more defense in the final frame. Offensively, Cedaredge needed more shots to fall as Freeman's eight points fell short of what was needed to win the game in regulation play.
Cedaredge got the best punch of the game in the overtime with a 12-4 run in four minutes and a 69-61 win. This time, there was enough Freeman as the talented senior scored eight points on a 3-pointer, a regular goal and a three-for-four performance at the free-throw line. Senior Sierra Baldozier hit three of four free throws and junior Hailey Henrie went one-for-two at the charity stripe.
Cedaredge coach Ryan Hilbig was happy for the win and took a large part of the blame for his team having to play an overtime period. "I take part of the blame for overtime. I wanted to bleed the clock with our lead at the end of the third quarter. I felt we were in control and had confidence when we were down late. I give a lot of credit to number 13 (Maddy Melsness) who hit three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. There's a senior who didn't want to go home."
Down the stretch, to keep the Bruins alive, and in the overtime period, Hilbig reflected on the play of his starters and bench players. "Nellie was huge for us ... man we're gonna miss her next year. But Hannah (Gil-more) stepped up to carry some of the load along with Kendall (McHugh), and Sierra (Baldozier) hit those free throws in overtime. Courtney (Freeman), Hailey (Henrie) and Mckayla McKinney all stepped up and played well."
Freeman's 32 points led all scorers in the game. It was one of her best scoring efforts of her career. She had eight 2-pointers, three 3-pointers and seven of 13 from the free-throw line in the win.
Gilmore finished with 15 points for the Bruins and Baldozier had eight counters. Wright's 18 points topped Union Colony scorers.
The Bruins (22-2) are seeded fourth in the eight-team field at this weekend's 2A Girls' State Basketball Championships in Pueblo. Massari Gymnasium is the site for all games and is located on the campus of CSU-Pueblo.
Cedaredge will begin its quest for a state title on Friday when it faces No. 5 Kiowa (19-4) at 4 p.m.