The rematch of the 2018 3A girls’ basketball state championship game certainly didn't go the way reigning champ St. Mary’s wanted it to.
Heading into the Lions’ den at Colorado Springs Christian, the Pirates had won 18 straight dating back to last year’s state tournament. But CSCS, who had beaten St. Mary’s in the district tournament before falling in the state final, wanted to find a bit of redemption.
With a little help from St. Mary’s shooting troubles, and a freshman matching a career-high in scoring, the Lions claimed a dominant 55-38 victory to remain undefeated.
“We’ve been waiting a long time to play them and we just wanted to finally see how we matched up against them,” CSCS coach Mark Engesser said. “We wanted to see how they played us, how we play them and what we need to do to get better because there’s a good chance we see them two more times.”
Freshman guard Elleah Hoekert led the Lions with 10 points after the first half as both teams struggled with shooting percentage early. She dropped four 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 16 points.
“It gave me a lot of confidence and motivation,” Hoekert said. “I was really nervous at the beginning but I just had to cool it down, and my teammates were really encouraging so I could just play my game.”
The Lions shot just 3 for 12 in the first quarter, but ended the half shooting 30 percent, and eventually 40 percent from the field for the game.
St. Mary’s on the other hand, wasn’t so lucky. Although the Pirates did double their shooting percentage by the end of the game, finishing at about 18 percent from the field, the damage was done.
“That sometimes happens to you,” St. Mary’s coach Mike Burkett said. “(At halftime) we just said we have to score, we were getting good looks, we were getting the ball to people but we weren’t getting the ball in the basket. You can wish and want all you want, but sometimes it just doesn’t go in.”
Leading Pirate scorer Josephine Howery was held to just one point in the first half, but finished with a team-leading 13 points as the only St. Mary’s scorer in double figures. Seneca Hackley finished with nine points, all scored in the first half.
CSCS' Megan Engesser, who was held scoreless in the first half finished with 14 points, followed by Corrie Anderson with 10.
Engesser leads Class 3A averaging 23.4 points per game, followed by Howery (21.4) and CSCS’ Rachel Ingram (19.6) who had eight points on Saturday.
Last year Colorado Springs Christian made 216 3-pointers, good for fourth in the state all time. With 135 including the eight from Saturday, Engesser believes that his team can break the state record for three’s made in a season, currently held by Hi-Plains with 308.
“All five of our girls just shoot. They can all shoot it (the 3) if it’s open. I don’t care if it’s Rachel or Megan or Elleah, Corrie or Abby (Knedler), whoever is open is going to shoot, and they did that tonight,” Engesser said. “We knew that they were probably going to take (Megan and Rachel) away and we just needed to hit the open girl, and they stepped up big and hit the open shots, and that was great.”
Saturday was likely just round one of the St. Mary’s, Colorado Springs Christian girls’ basketball series this year, and both coaches agree there is still a lot of basketball to be played.
“We learned a lot. We learned we don’t like to feel this way, and that was one of the things we talked about, but we also said, life goes on,” Burkett said. “This is one game, but we will fight another day and this was not a season-ending loss. We are going to learn from it and move on.”