Photo by Tamie Meck Chelsy Reed defends against Hotchkiss point guard Natalie Anderson in Paonia’s Feb. 19 conference win at Hotchkiss. Paonia’s defense held Hotchkiss to six field goals. The game was the last on the schedule before the district tournament. Hotchkiss hosted a pigtail game against Hayden Tuesday night. A win gives them the No. 3 seed at the tournament, which opens Friday at Paonia High School.Under head coach Eric Hollembeak, the Lady Bulldogs are making a big impression in their first year in the 2A Western Slope League. Hotchkiss wrapped up the season on Feb. 19 with a 55-39 loss to Paonia, but its 12-7, 6-3 overall record put it in third place in the WSL heading into this week's District 5 tournament.
Paonia head coach Scott Rienks gave Hollembeak and the Lady Bulldogs credit for giving his team an exciting game and holding them scoreless for the first 4 minutes of play.
"Eric, in my opinion, is one of the best coaches around here and I knew Eric was going to do something to try to throw us off a little bit, and he did," said Rienks. "He had his kids ready to play extremely hard, and he had something waiting for us."
Hotchkiss point guard Natalie Anderson led Hotchkiss in scoring with 15 points. Paonia is known for its fast-paced play, said Anderson. In response, the team came out with a stall plan. "Our goal was just to slow them down. If we could slow them down it'd give us a better shot."
Hotchkiss trailed by nine at the half, with most of its points shot from the free throw line. Anderson's opening lay-up was the only field goal scored by Hotchkiss in the first half.
"The score definitely wasn't what we wanted but I'm really proud of everyone," said Anderson. "The crowd was awesome. That contributed a lot."
"Hotchkiss came out with a little bit of pressure on us and we didn't react the way we were supposed to," said Rienks. "We played extremely hard today. Effort was fantastic, but our execution wasn't."
Rienks said his team "shot probably one of the worst games we've shot since Christmas, but we still came out in the end, so we'll take that."
Paonia went undefeated in league play to clinch the title and enter the tournament seeded first. As league champions, they earned a first-round bye and are protected to regionals.
Hotchkiss played sixth-seeded Hayden (4-14, 3-8) in a pigtail game Tuesday night at Hotchkiss. (Go to www.maxpreps.com for scores.)
The tournament opens with a girls' game this Friday at Paonia High School. The winners of the Hotchkiss-Hayden game will face either No. 2 Meeker or No. 7 West Grand at 3 p.m. At 6 p.m., Paonia will play either No. 4 Rangely or No. 5 Soroco.