Thu Mar 31st, 2016
The Southern Ute Drum
Watching Lower Platte Activities Association rivals Alexandria ‘A.J.’ Miller of Akron and Logan Hixon of Yuma actually cooperating to power the opposing side to a 15-0 lead right after the opening tip, Shane Seibel wasn’t worried about how his one-off, hodge-podge roster could, and indeed would respond.
“Coaching a bunch of all-stars is amazing because we just let them play!” he said after the 2016 Colorado Coaches of Girls’ Sports All-State [Class 2A] Game played Sunday, March 20, at Arvada West High School. “And so we encouraged them, shook up our defenses a little bit from man to 1-3-1, and then we started hitting some shots … next thing you know, we’re right in it!”
“You know, we just knew that once our shots started to fall we could climb back into it.”
An 8-0 burst finished by a layup from Paonia’s Ashley VanVleet more than sliced the deficit facing the 2A-Red team in half, and though the 2A-Blue quickly responded to rebuild their lead up to 23-11, Ignacio’s own Ellie Seibel booked her first basket with 7:10 left in the opening 18-minute half to help revitalize the Reds.
“We just tried to stay positive,” she explained. “Because we’re all seniors, the same age, and we knew that we could play and score – so that’s what we tried to focus on, ourselves and our game.”
A cleanup by Oak Creek Soroco’s Briana Peterson pulled the Reds back to 23-20 with 3:23 left, and with Cedaredge’s Nellie Freeman starting to heat up from beyond the three-point arc, the squad actually took a 27-25 lead before Calhan’s Mikaela Parker brought the Blues level with a buzzer-beating putback.
“We shot really well as a team, and we just clicked; everything was just flowing,” said Miller of the Blues’ scorching start. “I felt like we would … make it work, so it didn’t surprise me that we were all shooting really good.”
“There were four of us who came from the same league [the LPAA], which was nice because we’ve been used to playing against each other but never with each other,” Haxtun’s Megan Gerk agreed, “and we … all blended really well. With practice yesterday and some scrimmages, it was just really easy and fun to play with everybody.”
The sentiment was similar, and just as beneficial for the Reds.
“The one practice we did have, our coach gave us maybe two plays and then said, ‘O.K., you guys know how to play ball … just play ball!’” Ellie Seibel said, of Soroco’s David Bruner. “Motion offense – don’t stay in one area longer than two seconds – and have fun!”
“It was fun to get different points-of-view, run new plays, and I loved it a lot,” said Freeman, of learning from previously unknown mentors. “They’re fun.”
She began the second half with a layup, and the Reds began their best surge of the game with two treys by Peterson (14 points) and one by Freeman as the designated ‘home’ team’s lead grew to 44-37, and then to 47-38 on a triple by Swink’s Taiylor Holland.
“Just an awesome, awesome group of young ladies,” said Shane Seibel. “Very tough, and they were able to come back defensively and then make some big shots. It was fun!”
Seibel was called back to the bench after picking up her third foul – players were actually granted six, rather than the usual five, for disqualification – with 10:47 left in the battle and the Blues responded by going on a 7-0 spree, following another Freeman three-ball, to come as close as 52-50 with 6:00 left via another Parker bucket.
Sanford’s Dana Lenz, held in check throughout the game, suddenly scored five straight points to regain Red a seven-point lead. But YHS’ Peighton Roth – somehow over some aggressive Seibel defending – and Hixon (13 points) each sank a three to pull the Blues back to 60-58.
Peterson buried a turnaround jumper, but Parker (ten first-half points, 17 total) answered with two free throws. VanVleet then converted a strong take to the hoop, but Gerk knocked down her third three-pointer – the game’s 21st, and last as it turned out – to bring the ‘visitors’ back to 64-63 with 1:04 still remaining.
“I was just happy to help the team in any way – if it was going to be by passing to the open three-pointers or making them, it didn’t matter to me,” Gerk said. “But it felt good to be contributing to the team!”
To the joy of HHS’ Rich Gerk and Kiowa’s Rick Carothers, their Blues would have the final possession with either a win, loss or overtime still to be decided, but Roth’s long baseline jumper was off the mark and the Reds’ celebration began as time – and many players’ prep careers – expired.
“It was something special. Both me and the other coach, we just were tickled to be there, be involved, and then go, ‘Wow!’” said Shane Seibel. “It’s our last game to coach … this year, and to get a win is unbelievable.”
“I’m just completely humbled,” Ellie Seibel said. “My teammates are amazing and, you know, our opponents are amazing, and I’m just completely blessed I was able to be here. I’m just living for the moment … just thrilled!”
“I really just encouraged her to just be her…you know? You’re under no pressure, just play hard and have fun! And she did exactly that. Cloe, same thing when she got an opportunity,” Shane Seibel said, recalling his older daughter’s appearance in the 2013 CCGS All-State Volleyball Games, “and I’m just blessed to experience it.”