A ladder, scissors and a net never looked so good.
Stingy defense and precise offense gave fourth-ranked Grand Valley women’s basketball a whopping 57-28 win over 20th-ranked Colorado Academy at Parachute on Saturday.
The Class 3A regional win now sends the Cardinals 20-4 to the state tournament. They gave clues against 12th-ranked St. Mary’s at the University of Denver on March 10.
Saturday’s fight saw the Cardinals take on the Mustangs physically. Junior AbbyRose Parker and sophomore Jaycee Pittman teamed up to draw six shooting fouls of Colorado Academy’s 19 total team fouls.
Parker led Grand Valley with 20 points.
“I think we were all pretty nervous for this game, and we handled our nerves really well,” Parker said after joining his teammates for the traditional net cut. “We went out and did what we had to do.”
The Cardinals’ terrific performance, however, still had to push back at least two major points from the Mustangs in the first half.
Mustangs sophomore Naomi Wolff, who led the Colorado Academy with 8 points, quickly got the blood flowing with a three-point bucket at 7:29 into the first quarter. Wolff then made a strong move to the hoop for a well-fought layup minutes later, putting the Mustangs ahead 7-4.
But the Mustangs’ lead turned short-lived as Parker drained a three-pointer into the corner, tying the game 7-7 at 2:45. A forced turnover seconds later resulted in Pittman hitting one of two shots at the free throw line, giving the Cardinals their first lead of the day, 8-7.
Seconds before the end of the first frame, Parker hit another three-pointer. She would finish the game with four buckets beyond the arc.
“I think today everyone was really focused, subconsciously, on us having to play defense, we have to do the little things,” Parker said. “It’s always the little things that turn into big things.”
Grand Valley continued to go big in the second quarter, but this time it was senior Bailey Radel who sent the crowd into a frenzy with a three-pointer in the 7th minute. Radel, who had 19 points, finished the game with five three-pointers.
“I try to put a lot of work into the gym,” Radel said. “I try to arrive early before training starts and just shoot my shots and try to be consistent throughout the season.”
After the Cardinals beat the Mustangs 14-12 in the second quarter, they entered halftime with a 26-19 lead. Radel then came out in the third quarter and scored two straight three-pointers between 7:20 and 5:43.
The Cardinals continued to pressure the Mustangs for the remainder of the second half, prompting more turnovers and hitting five of six buckets on three more trips to the boards.
Radel hit his last shot from downtown with 4:20 left in the fourth quarter, putting the Cardinals up to a comfortable 50-27 lead.
“It was intense, but our team kept their cool and we worked together just to get this win,” Radel said. “He feels good.”
Cardinals head coach Scott Parker acknowledged his team’s heavy paint presence, saying, “We played defense with our feet today.”
“We were able to stay ahead of them, and that opened up our transition,” he said. “I think our girls did a really good job on the boards too, limiting (the Mustangs) to one shot.”
On the other hand, Parker pointed to the Cardinals’ ball movement as a key factor in their offensive production.
“We insist on playing basketball backwards,” Parker said. “When you limit the team to one hit, you’re able to go out and transition and get break points fast.”
Grand Valley entered Saturday’s game after a 60-51 regional first-round win over 29th-placed Buena Vista on Friday.
The March 10 Great 8 showdown against St. Mary’s means the Cardinals will have to outplay a team posting a 20-4, 12-1 overall conference record, as well as averaging 67.6 points, 27.4 rebounds, 18 assists, 16.8 steals and 2.8 blocks per game.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals are averaging 52.3 team points, 27.8 rebounds, 10.3 assists, 14.8 steals and 2.7 blocks per game. They head into next week with a 20-4 overall conference record, 5-2.
“We’ve been playing good basketball here for about the last month, and I’m happy for the girls,” Parker said. “They worked off-season, and it shows.”
COAL RIDGE OUT
After skating the first round with a 45-43 victory over Resurrection Christian on Friday, the Titans were eliminated from the 3A Regionals on Saturday.
Facing second-ranked University, the 15th-ranked Titans suffered a 48-22 loss at Greeley.
University went up in smoke, beating the Titans 29-9 in the first half. The only offensive spark the Titans saw came from 10 points in the fourth quarter.
The Titans finished the 2021-22 season at 13-7 overall (conference record 4-3). It was the last basketball game in a Titans jersey for two seniors, Railey Largent and Clara Carranza.
Journalist Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or [email protected]