Girls want another crack at Great 8
Yuma High School’s girls basketball team will be shooting for their sixth straight regional championship this weekend.
However, this attempt will have a fresh feel to it compared to the previous five years.
The Indians get to try to punch their ticket to the Class 2A Great 8 in the friendly confines of The Pit.
“Getting to host makes your path easier,” coach Bob Rahm said. “Getting to be at home, sleeping in your own bed, it’s always a good thing.”
Yuma is 22-0 and the No. 1 overall seed in the 32-team regional field after winning its third straight District 2 title, and fourth in five years, last weekend at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling.
The Indians welcome to town 32nd-seed Las Animas, along with a familiar foe in 16th-seed Haxtun and 17th-seed Ellicott.
Haxtun knocked off Holyoke in the District 2 third-place game, after losing to Yuma in the semifinals, and was rewarded with a return trip to Yuma. The Bulldogs are 14-6 heading into regional. Ellicott lost to Simla, the No. 2 overall seed, in the District 8 championship last Saturday and brings a 17-5 record into regional.
Those two will get the regional fun started Friday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.
Yuma will take the court at 5:30 p.m. against Las Animas. The Trojans are 9-13 overall, losing to Hoehne in the District 6 third-place game last Friday in La Junta. (Yuma’s current string of seven straight regional appearances began with a loss to Las Animas in the regional semifinals at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs in 2012.)
Rahm said he does not know much about the Trojans.
“We’ll play our game and make them adjust to us,” he said.
The coach noted the other two teams in Region 1 are pretty good and evenly matched, and either would give Yuma a good challenge if the Indians are fortunate enough to reach the regional final.
“You have to win the first one,” Rahm said. “Just have to keep working.”
Friday will mark the first time the Yuma girls will play a regional game in The Pit since the Indians won there on their way to claiming the 1997 3A title.
They have played plenty of district games at NJC in Sterling since dropping to 2A for the 2010-11 season, picking up two more wins in the Bank of Colorado Events Center last weekend.
After opening district play with a quarterfinal win at home over Akron earlier last week (see last week’s edition), the Indians headed to Sterling on Friday to take on Haxtun in the semifinals.
Yuma eventually pulled away to a 43-25 win, but it was not without its challenges.
Haxtun finished fifth in last year’s 2A state tournament (Yuma was third) and returned some height and talent from that squad.
Yuma led just 11-7 at the end of the first quarter, scoring at the buzzer on Chasey Blach’s inside basket off a nice feed from Cody Robinson. Avery Whitehead hit a 3-pointer in the second, and Kenedy Roth followed a short time later from downtown as Yuma took a 19-10 lead.
The Indians just kept pounding away, Roth hitting another trey for a 10-point lead, 22-12, early the third, and they led 28-18 heading into the fourth. Yuma began pulled away in the final stanza, building an 18-point lead in the final minutes.
Neither team shot particularly well, Yuma at 36 percent and Haxtun 20 percent. The Indians dominated the boards, 40-26, and recorded 13 assists and nine steals. Both teams played a fairly clean game with 14 turnovers for Yuma and 16 for Haxtun.
Cody Robinson had 13 points, eight rebounds and three assists, Chasey Blach 10 points, 18 rebounds and six blocks, Whitehead six points, two assists and two steals, Roth six points, four rebounds and four assists, Kyle Rayl four points and two rebounds, Reagan Nolin two points and four rebounds, Viri Escobar two points and two rebounds, and Sarah Leifheit one rebound and one steal.
Wray held off Holyoke by three points in the other semifinal, setting up an all-Yuma County District 2 final for the third consecutive year.
Yuma improved to 3-0 in those games with a thoroughly-dominating 42-25 win.
The Indians put on a defensive clinic in the first half. They led 7-1 when Wray called a timeout midway through the first quarter, and led 16-3 by the end of the quarter. They then held the Eagles scoreless in second, forging a 25-3 lead by halftime.
Rahm pulled back offensively in the second half, preferring to run clock than add on more points. Wray found some offense late in the game, cutting the deficit to under 20 in the final minutes in a championship game that proved to be anti-climatic in regards to the anticipation of a Yuma-Wray district final.
Many wondered after the game what was wrong with Wray, but Rahm noted the Indians have the capability of making good teams play poorly.
“We controlled the tempo of the game,” he said. “It’s not the tempo they like to play. Then when they couldn’t score, they got frustrated some.”
The coach gave an A+ for the defensive effort: “Our help defense was really good. Our team focus was really good.”
On slowing the tempo even more in the second half, Rahm said: “I just didn’t want to give them any hope,” adding the Eagles have the firepower for a comeback if things started to go sideways for the Tribe.
Yuma shot just 39 percent, but Wray was a frigid 19 percent, making just nine of 47 attempts while missing all eight of its 3-pointers. Yuma was not much better making two of 10 behind the arc. Yuma held a 33-24 rebounding advantage,including 16 offensive boards, and had 12 assists, 12 steals and 12 turnovers.
Robinson had 14 points, four rebounds and four steals, Blach a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, along with three steals, Whitehead nine points and three assists, Rayl four points, four rebounds and three steals, Escobar two points and five rebounds, Roth five rebounds and three assists, and Nolin three rebounds.
Rahm credited his four seniors — Sarah Leifheit, Kyle Rayl, Kenedy Roth and Avery Whitehead — with their performances as the season has progressed.
“I’ve been really proud of my seniors, how they’ve stepped up,” he said. “They don’t get a lot of publicity sometimes, but they are a big key to what we do and definitely help us win.
“They have that focus and drive in their senior season to finish it well. They know it’s their last chance.”