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Bruins stun Paonia girls

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Photo by Eric Goold Paonia senior Taylor Carsten moves the ball up the court against Cedaredge senior Kendall McHugh under the watchful gaze of Eagles head coach Scott Rienks.

The Cedaredge High School girls' basketball team just learned a lot about who they can be.

The Bruins trailed virtually the entire game before rallying to beat Paonia 42-40 last Saturday afternoon, handing the No. 2 Eagles their first defeat in 1A/2A Western Slope League play.

"It's a great win. We hope that we'll see them again in three weeks. It's fun to play them. It's a good rivalry and great competition," Cedaredge coach Ryan Hilbig said. "So the girls are excited. If we could go out right now and have Monday's practice, they'd say let's do it."

Paonia led the game after the first quarter 12-9, was in front 24-20 at halftime and held a 29-28 advantage going into the final frame.

"It was fun. We told them at the beginning of the game that we had 32 minutes to play," Hilbig said. "It was going to take all 32 minutes. It didn't matter what happened in the first half, we still had 16 minutes to go. It didn't matter what happened in the third quarter because we still had 8 minutes to go.

"And that was the goal, to be ahead at the end of the 32," he said. "And they did it. So I'm proud of them."

Senior standout Nellie Freeman got the Bruins going with a pair of free throws and Kendall McHugh sank a charity toss, and Cedaredge tied the game 31-31. The teams traded buckets and possessions and were tied again at 37-37 with 2:47 left.

Both teams were saddled with foul trouble throughout the contest and neither squad could get a flow going on offense.

"We like to press and run. That's always our plan," Hilbig said. "I thought both sides handled that pressure fairly well, and turned it into a half-court slugfest."

Freeman sank a 3-pointer that put the Bruins ahead with 59 seconds remaining. Freeman drove the length of the floor and found Hannah Gilmore under the hoop for the winning bucket with 5 seconds left.

Gilmore tied for game high with 15 points and Freeman finished with 14 for the winners. Junior MaKayla Mc-Kinney provided a huge spark for the Bruins off the bench with her eight points.

Cedaredge and Paonia have been leapfrogging each other in the polls all season, and the Bruins might do so again after posting an 8-1 mark in league play and a 15-1 overall tally.

"Our team's growing. Last year we thought we peaked the first time we played Paonia, and we never got any better from there," Hilbig said. "This year it's a newer group of girls, and they're learning their roles and learning where to go. We don't have to rely on just one girl all the time. Today we had more people step up and that was the difference."

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