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Turnovers doom Vanguard girls in first round of 2A state playoffs
Coursers rattled in first state showing
PUEBLO – A team’s first appearance in a state tournament can be a nerve-racking experience.
Vanguard’s girls’ basketball team discovered that firsthand Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the 2A state tournament at the Pueblo Events Center. Fourth-seeded Lutheran used a swarming full-court press and a plethora of offensive rebounds to knock off the No. 5 Coursers 55-45, sending the young Vanguard squad to the consolation bracket.
Jennifer Vigil scored all 16 of her points in the first half, and the Lions (19-5) forced 16 first-half turnovers by the Coursers (20-5) to take a double-digit lead they would not relinquish. Vanguard – which starts three juniors and two sophomores – could not handle Lutheran’s press and saw its offensive attack derailed in the process.
“We were the only team that’s never been here before, and I hoped we wouldn’t be affected by that, but we were a little bit,” Vanguard coach Frank Haist said. “We weren’t as smooth and effective offensively as I hoped we’d be. Our girls battled, but you’ve got to give credit to Lutheran.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up in the championship game.”
Leading scorer Bailey Haist struggled against the Lions, finishing with seven points, nine off her average. The Lions knocked down four first-half 3-pointers and won the rebounding battle as well in winning their 10th straight game.
“(Our press) is something we’ve been riding all season long, especially down the stretch,” Lutheran coach Mark Duitsman said. “I was proud of our girls for crashing (the boards) and giving ourselves second chances. Getting in the Final Four is a great feeling.”
Lexi Radic added 11 points for Lutheran.
The Coursers struggled to hold onto the ball in the first half, and the Lions used their press and offensive rebounds to take a 35-24 lead into the locker room.
“We were just rattled at first,” said Vanguard junior Cassandra Sulski, who had a team-high 16 points. “It’s our first time here, so the nerves got to us in the first half. They deserved it, because they played better all around.”
Caitlin Bower added nine points for the Coursers, with Angel McNulty chipping in eight.
While Lutheran moves on to face No. 1 Paonia on Friday, Vanguard will match up against eighth-seeded Del Norte (18-7) in an elimination game at 8:45 a.m. The Coursers still have a chance to make some noise in the 2A tournament.
“Hey, we’ve got another game tomorrow,” Haist said. “We’ve got to get them ready to play Del Norte, and we’d love to be playing on Saturday.”