Paonia girls earn State trip

By Wayne Crick

Paonia girls earn State trip | Basketball, PHS

Photo by Wayne Crick Paonia High School claimed the Region 3 Pool 1 title with a 53-41 win over Soroco. Paonia will be the No. 2 seed at this year's 2A Girls' State Basketball Championships in Pueblo, March 10-12. Pictured in the front row (l-r) are senio

Given the competition continues to rise as teams advance in playoff races, Paonia High School's Eagles used all that surrounds those contests to gain experience and momentum on their journey toward a state basketball title this week in Pueblo.

The Eagles continued their winning ways with two more victories in Rifle over opponents in the 2A Region 3 tournament. Paonia sailed past an outmanned Lyons team, 54-16, and then survived a scrappy Soroco team to win the Pool 1 title with a 53-41 decision.

Friday - Pool 1
Paonia 54, Lyons 16

Paonia jumped on the Lions 16-0 before relinquishing a field goal in the first period. Junior Sophia Anderson used her size and skill to penetrate the middle of Lyons' defense and dish an assist to McKenna Hartigan for an 18-4 lead later in the frame.

The Eagles were comfortably ahead at the end of the first eight minutes with a 20-8 advantage.

A patient Eagles' offense used opportunities provided for them by their defensive play to build a 32-12 lead by halftime.

A 14-0 run for the Eagles in the third quarter provided a 46-12 lead going to the final period.

Lyons picked up its first points of the second half with 3:45 left in the game. Miscues by the Lions, and solid defense from Paonia's reserves, led to just two more points for Lyons resulting in a 54-16 win for the Eagles.

Anderson's 19 points paced Paonia's offensive attack, with Emily Pieper's nine second best. Brittany Kendall finished with seven points.

Madison Johnson had six points to lead Lyons.

Saturday - Title Game
Paonia 53, Soroco 41

With a trip to state on the line, neither team wanted to give in to the other. Soroco's chances of advancing looked dim after the Eagles posted a hard-fought battle for a 10-6 lead with 1:50 left in the opening period. The score was 14-8 when the quarter had ended.

The Rams rebounded in the second stanza to outscore Paonia 18-16 and trailed the Eagles 30-26 at halftime.

Paonia returned to the floor after the break with a stronger offense that produced a 10-2 scoring advantage for the Eagles. Paonia led, 34-26, with 5:27 left in the third and was able to stretch that lead to 38-28 at the 1:52 mark. A 12-point lead for Paonia seemed it would be enough as the two teams began the final quarter.

Paonia's defense gave the Eagles' offense a chance to take a 44-29 lead with 5:30 left in the game. A time out by the Eagles with 4:57 left still had the 2A WSL champs ahead by the same 44-29 score. Shortly after that, Paonia's defensive specialist, Emily Pieper, fouled out (4:48).

Soroco was down 49-33 when the offense began a furious comeback. The Rams called a time out with 1:13 left in the game, trailing 50-41. The Eagles scored three points and held Soroco's offense scoreless the rest of the way.

Anderson's 14 points led Paonia's offense, with teammates Taylor Carsten and Ashley Van Vleet scoring 11 and 12 points respectively.

Soroco senior Briana Peterson finished with 16 points to claim game- scoring honors.

Paonia travels to Pueblo to participate in the 2016 2A State Basketball Tournament this weekend. CSU-Pueblo plays host to the eight-team field, with games beginning on Thursday, March 10.

Paonia will be in action against No. 7 Sanford (16-8) Friday morning at 11 a.m.