Regulation basketball season has ended and district playoffs are underway. But before the season could end, Paonia and Hotchkiss met on the court for a final conference game.
Bulldogs 39, Paonia 21
The Hotchkiss girls opened the evening with a 39-21 win over Paonia. It was the first conference win for the Bulldogs over Paonia since 2008.
The game came down to possessions and percentages. With 16 rebounds for Paonia and 40 for Hotchkiss, the Bulldogs controlled the court for most of the game. Paonia scored on four of 21 field goal attempts, or 19 percent, while Hotchkiss made 14 of 45 (31 percent) of its two-pointers.
Hotchkiss junior Shay Glaser led the Bulldogs in scoring with eight points, and Carson Collins, Elsie Vasquez and Kaiya Firor each scored seven.
The Eagles scored 13 of their 21 points from the foul line. Six of Paonia senior Poppy Lightfoot's game-high 10 points were shot from the line.
Paonia 57, Bulldogs 50
The key to the Paonia's win over Hotchkiss was in containing Bulldogs lead scorer Jacob Stucker, who scored 14 of his 29 points in the paint.
The Eagles led by 10 (44-34) to end the third period and came out relaxed in the fourth. Hotchkiss took advantage of the lull, and with 5:40 remaining in the game, held a 50-42 lead over Paonia. Landon Long came off the bench for Paonia to score on a three-point jumper with 4:25 remaining.
Paonia held the Bulldogs scoreless for the remainder of the game. With 45 seconds on the clock and Paonia leading, 54-50, Hotchkiss called a timeout. When the game resumed, Paonia forced a turnover, and David Lozano scored two points from the line on an intentional foul.
Elan Maulhardt and Justin Holt guarded Stucker throughout the game, sometimes double-teaming him. Holt had four fouls when the timeout was called. Paonia coach Tim Esgar told his defense to guard Stucker, who had already scored five points from the foul line, and not to worry about the fouls, said Holt. "He's one of the best players in the league and we wanted to make him shoot free throws."
With 20 seconds remaining, Lozano scored one more free throw on an intentional foul, then blocked a three-point attempt by Kenny Drbohlav to end the game.
"We won the ball game," said Holt. "Our team played great, and that's what matters. I'm just happy we got the win."
The Paonia girls' season came to an end with Monday's (Feb. 18) pigtail loss to the visiting West Grand Mustangs, 33-28. That game was played in Delta due to a water condition in the town of Paonia. The Eagles end the year at 2-9 and 4-16.
In other playoff games, Hotchkiss's girls (#3) defeated Hayden (#6), 63-48 in a quarterfinal game, and the Hotchkiss boys beat Hayden, 68-43 in a pigtail contest. Hotchkiss's girls play in De Beque on Friday at 6 p.m. against a team to be determined.
Hotchkiss's boys played in Plateau Valley on Feb. 19 with that winner playing on Friday and the loser on Thursday in consolation action.