Paonia won last year's girls division of the First Colorado National Bank Basketball Tournament and Emily Pieper was named MVP. This year's Paonia Eagles are competitive but lack experience and the depth of last year's squad.
This year's Paonia basketball roster contains just four players who have had varsity experience. Senior Mckenna Palmer is one of the leading players on that list with 20 games played last year on a highly talented team that won all 25 games it played to capture the 2A State Basketball Championship. Palmer scored at a 5.7 per game clip and averaged three rebounds a game.
Kassidy Rapke played in 21 games for the Eagles and averaged 1.7 steals a game. Sister Randi played in 19 games with a 9.5 scoring average.
Freshman Poppy Lightfoot had playing time in 16 games and is contributing heavily this season.
Paonia began play in this year's FCNB Basketball Tournament against Delta (see related article). Delta was too much for the young Eagles early in the season and the Panthers claimed a 48-36 victory.
The Eagles bounced back on Saturday night against Hotchkiss with a 35-32 win to capture consolation honors.
Neither team had much offense in first quarter play. Hotchkiss' Kaiya Firor scored four of the Bulldogs' six points helping Hotchkiss take a 6-5 lead to second stanza play.
Hotchkiss kept offensive momentum into the second quarter with Carson Collins, Elsie Vasquez and Kaleigh Little scoring four points each in a 12-9 Bulldog run. Paonia spent plenty of time at the free throw line in the second quarter and took 10 shots, making just four of them, in a nine-point run by the Eagles.
A four-point halftime deficit became a one-point advantage following a 9-4 third quarter offensive effort by the Eagles.
The two teams battled evenly through fourth-quarter play with Paonia keeping the lead with a 12-10 edge to preserve a 35-32 win. Paonia made four of 10 free throws in the period with Lightfoot adding a pair of field goals to match Andi Todd's four free throws.
Vasquez's six points in the fourth quarter kept the Bulldogs close and within reach in the final moments.
Vazquez's 11 points was high for the game with Collins' seven counters next high for the Bulldogs. Paonia's leading scorer was Palmer who finished with nine points. Lightfoot and Kassidy Rapke had six points each.
Prep hoops resume in January 2018.