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La Veta’s Sweet Sixteen turns sour

LA JUNTA- The La Veta Redskins played in their first regional championship game in years and fell short of attaining their goal of a berth in the Great Eight after they were upended by the Rocky Ford Meloneers, 43-38, last Saturday before a full house at the Rattler Pit at Otero Junior College.

    On Friday, the Lady Redskins played like true champions, taking it to the Fowler Grizzlies, 49-42.  Fowler opened play with a bucket from a steal to take an early 2-0 lead, but it was the Redskins who went on an 8-0 run to take a comfortable lead midway in the first.  After the first, La Veta was on top, 15-7. 

    The Grizzlies came storming back to open the second quarter and pulled within one after they capitalized on two Redskin turnovers, a quick offense and six straight points by Grizzly April Gonzales.  La Veta finally found the net, midway into the second and went on a 9-0 scoring run of their own off the hot shooting of Shelby Morgan, who scored 14 of La Veta′s 26 first-half points.

    The second half saw the Redskins mix a zone and man-to-man defense to control the tempo of the game.  Fowler was never able to get back in the game: the closest they were able to get was five points.

    After the game, Coach Kent Smith said of Fowler, "they are a scrappy group of girls who played real hard."  Of his Lady Redskins, he said, "I am proud of the way they played, but we can′t look past Rocky Ford."

    The Meloneers two dominant players, Amber Lowther who plays the post position and stands 5′10′ and Jessica Kienitz (5′9") at point guard, are the key to the Meloneer offense and containing them, Smith said, was key for a victory.

    La Veta opened the game strong and pulled ahead by five midway in the first.  It was Meloneer Mariah Hernandez whose 10 first-half points seemed to dominate the Rocky offense.  Rocky was able to break the zone defense and tie it up at 11.  They kept their momentum going and opened up an 18-12 lead before La Veta′s Cara Campbell was finally able to put La Veta back on the boards with a pair of free throws.  An ensuing inbound steal by Morgan and quick bucket put the Skins down by two, 18-16.  La Veta continued their zone defense, protecting the inside lanes, but giving up a bucket with 40 seconds remaining.  It was Sami Willhoite with a three-point shot at the buzzer who brought the Skins within one as the half ended, 20-19.

    La Veta traded buckets with Rocky Ford throughout the quarter until Willhoite′s bucket put the Skins on top, 30-28.  La Veta went on to score the next five points and amassed a 7-point lead, which would not last long as Rocky′s Lowther scored the next five Rocky points, setting up an exciting do-or-die situation for both teams.

     As La Veta entered the fourth, leading 37-33, Willhoite drove the lane and was fouled.  Willhoite made one of two.  These would be the only points the Skins would score in the final quarter.  It then took four minutes for Lowther to tie the game up at 38.  La Veta could not get the shots they needed to take gain control of the game and turned the ball over several times in the final quarter, which contributed to the Meloneers’ come- from-behind victory.  Coach Smith said afterwards, "The turnovers and missed shots hurt us in the end."  The loss sent the Redskins home and ended their season.

    In the season, Senior Shelby Morgan scored 381 points and averaged 17.32 points a game.  Morgan pulled down 111 rebounds and stole the ball 97 times.  Sami Willhoite averaged 12 points a game and was the dominant force on defense.  She pulled down 86 boards and had 127 steals.  She also led the team in assists with 76.  Cara Campbell, Christina Koutnik and Jacey Day were starters who were key to the Redskins’ successful season.  Jennifer Miller, Sam McCay and Shelbi Kelly comprised the balance of the varsity team.