Ignacio sophomore Marissa Olguin (3) drives baseline around a Woodland Park defender during 3A-Region VI semifinal action Friday, March 3, at Platte Valley High School in Kersey. Olguin scored five points in the Lady Bobcats' season-ending 50-49 loss.
Ignacio senior Laci Brunson (2) hugs junior Darlyn Mendoza-Lechuga following a season-ending 50-49 loss to Woodland Park in the second 3A-Region VI semifinal Friday, March 3, at Platte Valley High School in Kersey. Mendoza-Lechuga was injured midway through the third quarter and did not return to action.
Photo Credit: Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Photo Credit: Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Thumbnail image of
Thumbnail image of

Lady’ Cats push Woodland Park in loss

It wasn’t as though Craig Macari arrived in Kersey, Colo., holding a grudge. 

But after his Woodland Park girls survived a mutually memorable Class 3A-Region VI semifinal Friday evening, March 3, by a 50-49 margin the head coach couldn’t help but wonder if he had a squad which could help him right a weathered wrong. 

“See that 2004 banner up there?” he said, pointing up at the ceiling of event-hosting Platte Valley’s gymnasium. “In that State Championship year, when I was with a different school – I was at Kent Denver – they beat me by three.” 

Macari was recalling a 57-54 loss in the semifinals, though KD bounced back – under the classification’s old double-elimination Great Eight format – to beat Pagosa Springs in the third-place game. 

But in order to even have a shot at the powerful Lady Broncos in the next afternoon’s tourney championship, his Lady Panthers, seeded 22nd in the State Tournament’s opening Round-of-32, needed to first negotiate No. 11 Ignacio – just as eager to impress inside the back-to-back State Champions’ house. 

“The bus ride was so long on the way up here, but this was great,” said junior guard Maci Barnes. “A lot of Ignacio fans showed up and it was awesome to hear them cheering for us.” 

“We were ready,” junior center/forward Solymar Cosio said. “We didn’t want to come up here and not give it our all, especially after traveling eight hours. And win or lose, we put a hundred percent on the floor; that’s all we could do.” 

“I think that 3A’s good for us; it pushes us more,” said sophomore guard Marissa Olguin, speaking about the Lady Bobcats’ upward transition this winter from the program’s longtime Class 2A designation. “And we had to keep pushing; when Darlyn got hurt we knew we couldn’t stop.” 

Having already seen WPHS go on a 10-0 scoring run during the last 5:36 of the first half, authoritatively erasing their 11-10 first-quarter lead which maxed out at 16-12 early in the second, watching junior guard Darlyn Mendoza-Lechuga need assistance off the court to begin icing what appeared to be a left thigh/hip injury (from which she did not return) could have been catastrophic for the Lady ’Cats. 

“Everybody was a little scared, I think,” admitted senior guard Laci Brunson, “but we had to regroup. There was still a lot of time left to play basketball. We were still in it and just had to keep fighting.” 

Trailing 24-21 with 4:18 left in the third quarter, Ignacio truly got into the battle Brunson’s quarter-starting three-pointer had signaled was brewing. And with Barnes hitting two free throws, Cosio powering inside for two baskets, and senior forward/center Harmony Reynolds converting a steal into two points with 55.6 seconds left, IHS had closed to 28-27. 

Woodland Park junior forward/center Jaedyn Kohn, who’d hit an open jumper after an inbounds pass deflected off Olguin’s head right into her unguarded hands just prior to Mendoza-Lechuga’s exit, managed to drop in a basket but Cosio responded with a buzzer-beater at the other end – leaving the score 30-29 going into the final frame. 

“It was very energetic, very fun to play in,” she said of the overall atmosphere. “We just had to make sure we kept our heads in the game no matter what happened. We had our fans behind us but we had to stay focused on what we had to do.” 

Assisted by sophomore reserve DaLaney Wesner, Brunson buried a game-tying trey 45 ticks in. Still able to out-muscle Ignacio on the boards, the Lady Panthers rebuilt a 37-32 lead before Barnes cashed a corner three. Motivated by unstoppable senior center/forward Bella Slocum, WPHS answered with a deuce, but Barnes (8 points) then struck from deep off the left wing. 

“I’d drained one, then Laci passed me the ball again and I was open, so I shot again,” recalled Barnes, still somewhat awestruck by the intense sequence. “I was pretty happy that I was on fire.” 

“There was a couple times we let 2 (Brunson) loose in the corners, and then Ignacio had a girl … knock a couple threes down in the fourth – those were huge shots!” acknowledged Macari. “I don’t know if she’s done that normally all year, but great for her for stepping up tonight.” 

“There’s nights where she’s just on; you’ve got to see that,” Cosio (8 points) said. “She’s always giving a hundred percent – whether she has four fouls (as she did before her two triples fell) or no fouls – and when she’s on, she’s on!” 

With the Lady ’Cats behind 39-38 but seemingly closing faster and faster, Slocum effectively took matters into her own hands…and caught IHS off-guard somewhat by taking her own game out to the perimeter. Taking a Kohn pass, she sank an unexpected three-pointer rebuilding WPHS’ advantage back up to 44-38. And even with Woodland Park in the one- and, later, two-shot bonus for the final 3:10 of regulation, Ignacio never relented. 

Behind 45-40 as Lady Panther junior guard Stella Schroeder went about making three of six FTs down the stretch, IHS just kept coming. Cosio and Brunson netted takes to the hoop as the game clock ticked under two minutes remaining, again bringing the Lady Bobcats back to within one point, and even after Cosio fouled out with 1:46 left the game was still very much afoot. 

Brunson (12 points, 6 assists) would make two free throws prior to Cosio’s departure, and Wesner (4 points) later finished a breakaway keeping Ignacio within two, 50-48. Woodland Park junior guard Brenna Larsen would soon foul out vying for a rebound, and with 0:23.7 left Olguin (5 points, 8 rebounds) hit one of the two resulting FTs. 

Able to then work the clock down to fewer than ten seconds remaining, the Lady Panthers had a chance to effectively clinch victory, but Kohn inexplicably clanked two FTs with only 5.2 ticks left. And with 1.1 to go, following a Macari timeout – in which he must have instructed his players to not foul at any cost – the Lady ’Cats, set to inbound on the baseline, still had hope. 

Barnes managed to pass to Brunson, who then heaved a shot needing to fly three-fourths the length of the floor. 

The two-handed try, however, fell well short, and IHS’ 2022-23 season was abruptly over. 

Reynolds, who logged eight first-quarter points, finished with 12 to match Brunson’s team-leading count. All told, Ignacio went 13-of-20 from the free-throw line; Woodland Park ended up 5-of-12 during the fourth quarter and 6-of-15 overall. 

Registering a devastating 15 fourth-quarter points, many via second – or third chance put – backs, Slocum finished with 23 points and a reported 26 rebounds. Kohn totaled eight and ten, Schroeder scored seven points and freshman Karease Broeker five. 

“As a whole it was well-played by both teams,” declared Macari. “Both made good adjustments to what the other was trying to do, and we got lucky enough to make a few free throws to come out ahead.” 

Improving to 14-10 overall, Woodland Park advanced to face 6-seed PVHS, which had ripped No. 27 Rocky Ford (10-11) in the preceding semi, 60 to 16. Ignacio, meanwhile, finished 11-11 for a second straight year. 

“We’re never guaranteed anything,” Cosio said. “We just have to leave everything on the floor, whether we’re going to win or lose. And we’re always going to play to win, never going to play with fear.” 

“I mean, we only lost by one; I’m so proud of my team for battling,” said Brunson. “We’re out, but I love my team; this was one of my most fun years.” 

“All these teams are good, and we’re just as good,” she continued, recognizing IHS’ ability to ball in either 2A or 3A, as well against upper-classification (some in the 3A/4A Intermountain League) teams. “So, I wish Woodland the best of luck tomorrow … taking on Platte Valley.” 


AFTERMATH: In the Region VI finale, PVHS bolted out to a 21-2 lead after one quarter and galloped away to a 60-33 win securing the Lady Broncos (17-7) a Great Eight date Thursday, March 9, against 3-seed Colorado Springs Christian (22-2). 

Mercifully reclassified out of the former 4A Colorado Springs Metro League and into the 3A (now 3A/4A) Tri-Peaks prior to the COVID-delayed 2020-21 campaign, WPHS made indelible history regardless of the loss: 

“The first-ever winning record for girls’ basketball at Woodland Park,” Macari said. “First-ever trip to the State Tournament, and first-ever State Tournament win. Two years ago, we won three games with, basically, this same group of girls; that’s where we’ve come from.” 

“Platte Valley’s beat some teams in our (league) that we haven’t been able to,” he added. “Our work was cut out for us, so we’ll just … enjoy the moment.” 

To top