The Lady Eagles brought their record to 6-1 Saturday following a 75-15 win over Plateau Valley.
The team went into the game confident of a win, said junior power forward Ce'rra Carsten, "But it was our first league game and that got us psyched."
The team is setting the bar high for their season, said Carsten, and have not forgotten how last year's season ended with a poor performance and a regional playoff loss to Sargent that dashed their hopes of returning to the state tournament.
Photo by Tamie Meck
Paonia’s Ce’rra Carsten (23) battles for the opening tip possession against the Plateau Valley Lady Cowboys last week. Carsten won the tip and Paonia dominated both offensively and defensively in a lopsided 75-15 win.
"We remember at every practice how the season ended," said Carsten following the game. "We come in to games knowing we don't want to go there."
Paonia dominated the game from the tip-off, which Carsten controlled, allowing Plateau Valley only seven points and two field goals in the first half.
Abby Campbell was high scorer with 15 points. Campbell was 7-8 in free throw attempts, led the team in rebounds with 12, made three steals, and ended the game with no fouls.
Sophomore guard Braiden Clement was the 11th player off the bench, replacing an injured Kayla Wingfield, and made a three-point shot within seconds of taking the court. Clement ended the game with seven points and two steals.
A 50-7 half-time lead allowed Paonia to try out a new dribble-and-drive offense. "We run it in practice and know each other's moves," said Carsten. The offense, first developed by the University of Massachusetts, opens up either the inside or the outside, depending on how the defense reacts.
With 50 seconds remaining in the game, Clement worked on the new offense, driving to the basket, saw she was covered, and dished the ball to Mandy Bushta, who was waiting at the three-point line. Bushta hit the shot to give the Eagles a 73-13 lead.
"I like it a lot," said Bushta, who scored a career-high 14 points, most of which came off of the new offense. "It fits our team really well because it's fast-paced," and Paonia is a fast-paced team. Players were first introduced to the offense after returning from winter break and practiced it throughout the week. "We've gotten pretty used to it, but this is the first time we tried it in a game," said Bushta.
Head coach Scott Rienks withheld judgment on the offense and how well it could work for his team, at least until it can be tried against some of the league's stronger teams. Paonia will face one of those teams this Saturday when they host Meeker (3-2, 1-0). Tip-off time is at 2:30 p.m.
Photo by Tamie Meck
The Eagles’ Ben Linnell (24) came off the bench in the second period to score a trey last Saturday against Plateau Valley to tie the game at 35-all. Linnell, a sophomore, is averaging six points per game for the Eagles.
In boys' play, just seconds after coming off the bench, Ben Linnell stepped up to the three-point line, saw that he was open, and nailed a trey. The shot came seconds before the half ended and tied the game against Plateau Valley at 35-all. Another field goal gave the Eagles a 37-35 lead going into the half.
Plateau Valley would have the final say, scoring 11 points and holding Paonia to just four in the final three minutes to win, 68-63. But after a slow start to the season that included some big losses, coach Chase Roeber said his team is starting to come together.
"We took a great big step forward tonight," said Roeber, whose team's first win of the season came Friday night when they defeated DeBeque, 77-43. "Obviously we're not happy about the outcome (of the loss to Plateau Valley), but we did a lot of things very well. We'll take those small personal victories and we'll run with them."
The Eagles posted the fewest turnovers of the season, 10 (after a season-high 31 against DeBeque Friday), and scored on 24 assists, including seven by senior Trevor Walters. Walters was also 4-4 in free throws, all of which came in the final two minutes of the game and kept Paonia within reach of a win until the final seconds.
Anthony Roeber led the Eagles in scoring with 16 points, and Daniel Ford scored 14.
Some of the younger players "stepped up and played really well," said Roeber. "Linnell played an awesome game, and (sophomore Jason) Sturgis came in and made some good plays." In addition, the junior varsity squad defeated Plateau Valley, 69-39. If we can continue to get some of those younger guys to play like that, we're going to do well," added Roeber.
The Eagles had a hard time containing senior Teddy Grundy, the team's strongest all-around player, who scored 28 points for the Cowboys, and Kyler Smith, who added 18. They were the only Cowboy players to post double-digit scores.
Roeber said that the team came out strong in Friday's win at De Beque, outscoring the Dragons 18-7 in the first quarter. They slacked off a bit in the second, threw the ball away (they had a total of 31 turnovers) and tried to rush their game, ending the first half with a 35-25 lead. "We came out re-focused in the second half and got back on track," finishing the game strong and outscoring De Beque, 19-6, in the fourth.
Paonia will face Vail Mountain High School (1-3, 0-1) at Vail this Friday, and host Meeker (6-1, 2-0) Saturday at 4 p.m.