By Wayne Crick

Sports editor

The difference a year makes is remarkable and Paonia High School’s girls basketball team is having themselves a season to remember. With recovering coach Scott Rienks on the sidelines the past two games, Paonia has been a pillar of strength in the community with three more wins added to its 2021 win column bringing the Eagles record to 8-1 overall and 5-1 in the 2A/1A Western Slope-South League and 9-1 overall. The Eagles are listed in second place in the standings, though they have beaten Cedaredge in league play, the Bruins are 7-1 and 9-1 to hold the top spot for now. The two teams are set for a rematch this week, Feb. 25, in Cedaredge and will likely decide the league’s title winner.

Paonia’s only loss in 2021 is to Plateau Valley on Feb. 12 in a 39-36 loss in Collbran.

The Eagles’ girls began their week on Tuesday, Feb. 16, at home against a top contender in the 2A/1A WS-North League, Soroco. The Rams are second in the North and put up a good fight in a 31-26 loss to the Eagles. On Friday, Paonia used a potent defense and good offense to score a 52-9 win against Caprock Academy and finished the week with a 38-25 win in Rangely.

Paonia’s boys are looking for their first win of the season after three losses this week to De Beque (Feb. 16, 69-25), at home to Caprock Academy (Friday, Feb. 19, 55-30) and in De Beque on Saturday, Feb. 20, 62-22. Senior Dom Felice scored 16 points against the Dragons in Paonia’s Feb. 16 game with three 3-point goals to his credit. No other statistics were available for the other two boys games.

Paonia’s girls started their week with Soroco and both teams struggled with offense as Paonia led by one after the first quarter, 7-6, and trailed 14-13 at halftime. The third quarter was painfully slow with only six points scored between the two teams. A 14-10 surge in the final period was the deciding factor in Paonia’s 31-26 win.

Sophomore Payton Fister kept the Eagles in the game with her play and scored 10 points while pulling down 5 rebounds. Senior Taneal Mautz has been playing well and scored 6 points and recorded 7 rebounds for the Eagles. Kayede Brunner had 14 points for Soroco to lead all scorers in the game.

Fister’s offense, and all around play, helped Paonia cruise to a 52-9 win against Caprock Academy on Friday. She also had four rebounds in the game. Mautz played another good game for the Eagles and scored 11 points with seven rebounds.

The Eagles left little doubt as to who was in control with a swarming defense that limited the visiting Eagles to just nine points, and a big 22-2 offensive burst in the third quarter.

Rangely and Soroco share the top spot in 2A/1A WS-North League with 3-0 records. Soroco is 8-1 overall while the Panthers are 5-4. Paonia eased to an 8-4 lead after one period of play and found itself trailing 10-9 at halftime. The difference in this game proved to be a 16-4 Eagles’ third quarter with Paonia leading 25-14 and one period of action remaining. A 13-11 fourth quarter gave Paonia the 13-point advantage at the final buzzer, 38-25.

Sophomore Leia Ellenberger scored 13 points to lead Paonia’s offense with senior Tawny Roberts adding 10 points to the final score. Mautz was a force on the boards with eight rebounds with senior Lauryn Kiefer grabbing seven rebounds and Fister recording two assists and four steals in the Eagles’ win.

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