Strong defense helped Paonia sail to a 16-point win over neighbor Hotchkiss last Thursday in a girls game that nearly packed the Paonia High School gymnasium.
In the opening period the Eagles held Hotchkiss to one goal -- by junior post Carson Collins -- and two free throws -- by guard Elsie Vasquez -- to lead, 15-4, at the buzzer.
Hotchkiss trailed by 20 points going into the half.
The Bulldogs came out strong in the third period, ramping up the defense and limiting Paonia to a game-low nine third-quarter points. Hotchkiss managed five goals for the quarter and trailed by 19 points heading into the final period of play.
Collins and the Bulldog defense held Eagles lead scorer Mckenna Palmer to 10 points for the game, six of which were shot from the free throw line.
With the focus on Palmer, teammate Kassidy Rapke scored a season-high six goals and 18 points for the game. Andi Todd scored eight, including the team's only 3-pointer, and junior Taralee Mautz finished with eight points. Poppy Lightfoot, Sophia Fisher and Taneal Mautz combined for seven points.
Vasquez ended the game with six points. Kaiya Firor, who made six of the Bulldogs' 13 steals for the game, scored six. Josie Hiatt posted two points and three steals. Yasmine Gaub, who shot the Bulldogs' only three pointer in the third quarter, Shay Glaser and freshman Amelia Hickham combined for 10 points.
Hotchkiss is now 6-5 for the season and 2-2 in the 2A/1A Western Slope conference. The Bulldogs host conference games this Friday at 6 p.m. against Hayden (3-9, 1-4), and Saturday at 1 p.m. against Soroco (9-3, 4-0).
Paonia (8-3, 4-1) played at Grand Valley (6-4, 1-1, 3A WSL) Tuesday night. It faces Vail Christian (10-2, 4-2) Friday and hosts De Beque (5-4, 0-2) at 2:30 p.m.