KMTS Games of the Week: Narrow Wins Move Glenwood Teams Closer to Titles

GLENWOOD SPRINGS (2/5/11) — For the boys, it was an escape; for the girls, payback — but both Glenwood basketball teams earned hard-fought, down-to-the-wire wins this weekend that moved each a step closer to clinching their respective 4A Western Slope League championships.

“Our intensity was up,” Glenwood senior Kenzie Kuhn said of the girls’ strong start that helped avenge the Demons only league loss this season at Delta, a 64-48 spanking three weeks ago. “We motivated each other, knowing how important this win was after losing to them,” the senior guard said. It was Kuhn’s buzzer-beating three-point heave from just inside the half-court line to end the third quarter that actually provided the three-point victory margin as Glenwood (17-3, 8-1 WSL) held on for a 59-56 win that dropped the Panthers (14-5, 7-2) out of a three-way tie for first with GSHS and Moffat County (13-6, 7-1).

First place will likely be settled next weekend when Delta travels to Craig on Friday, then the Lady Bulldogs come to Glenwood Saturday. The Demons currently hold the first-place tie breaker, having defeated the Bulldogs 50-48 in Craig, January 8th, but Moffat defeated the Panthers in Delta, 46-39, two weeks ago.

Coach Bryan Derby was proud of his team for bouncing back against the Panthers. “They responded so great after we lost at Delta,” he said. Glenwood has won six straight league games since then. “The girls played hard,” Derby emphasized, as four different players scored in building a 12-5 lead in the first quarter Friday, but Delta surged back to within a point by the end of the period and took a 13-12 lead as 5-11 sophomore Callie Gafford scored on one of three offensive putbacks by the Panthers in the second quarter.

The Demons regained the lead on a basket by Lexie Warkinton and stretched the lead to 28-20 when Cassidy Gaddis and Kuhn hit three-pointers as halftime neared. But Delta scored back-to-back buckets, with sophomore sensation Skylyn Webb scoring at the buzzer to cut the Demon lead to four.

The slender 5-8 guard had tallied 22 points (14 in the second half) in the Panthers’ one-sided win over Glenwood in Delta, but was held to a single basket in the third quarter as the Demons padded their lead to 44-36 when Kuhn rushed up court, glanced at the clock, took one more dribble, and her aim was true as the shot banked home. “Usually those don’t go in,” Kuhn laughed after her four free throws in the game’s final 13 seconds iced the victory.

Even after the spectacular end to the third quarter electrified the home fans, Delta refused to go quietly, taking its last lead, 48-46, following a 10-0 run, capped by 6-footer Jenni Jones’ bank shot with 3:05 to go in the game.

The game was tied three times in the next 75 seconds, but Connor Adams gave Glenwood the lead for good, 53-52, hitting a pressure free throw to complete a three-point play with 1:34 remaining. Following a time out, Webb was fouled, but missed both free throws, but Lexie Warkentin did the same two seconds later, giving Delta another chance for the lead. Jones’ driving shot missed, and Warkentin battled Gafford for the rebound, earning a jump ball that gave Glenwood possession with 55.9 seconds left. Gaddis, whose 3-point aim has been deadly (4 of 6) in the last two games, made two free throws for a 55-52 cushion, offsetting a driving basket by Sadie Carrillo with 15 seconds remaining, before Kuhn added four more from the stripe, surrounding a missed trey by Webb.

The Panthers, who made 28 of 56 shots in their home win over Glenwood, weren’t far off that pace (24 of 62) this time, but Derby’s strategy of packing in the paint with the Demons’ 1-3-1 zone paid off as Delta was tempted into taking 20 three-pointers, missing 17 of them.

Kuhn led all scorers with 22 points, dished out 7 assists, and was ably supported by 11 points and 12 rebounds from Warkentin (who also blocked 3 shots), 10 points and 6 assists by Gaddis, and Connor Adams, despite being in foul trouble most of the game, added 9 points. Webb scored 8 fourth-quarter points to finish with 17, and Gafford added 9 points and 10 rebounds.

“Executing down the stretch, and finishing with free throws,” coach Cory Hitchcock said was the key to the Glenwood boys’ 60-57 win at Palisade Friday, a game in which there were 10 ties and 10 lead changes. “We played hard, played smart, and played together,” the first-year Glenwood coach said.

Six players scored from 5-to-16 points in the see-saw win that kept the Demons (15-4, 8-1) a game ahead of the Steamboat Sailors (12-7, 7-2) in the race for the Western Slope League title. Michael McGraw and Collin Porterfield came off the bench to combine for 11 points and 13 rebounds. In Glenwood’s only league loss (56-54 at Steamboat), the pair were held scoreless.

“We spread the wealth a little,” Hitchcock said, as the recent scoring domination by Kevin Flohr (27 or more points in 7 of the previous 8 games) was balanced by 12 from Nick Ciani and 11 by Willie Pelland. Flohr, who tallied 16 (a dozen less than his league average of 28), did nail down the win with 4 straight free throws in the final 28 seconds.

On Saturday, it was more of the same as Flohr scored a season-low 9 points, but the boys cruised to a 66-51 win over Delta, building a 10-point lead in the first quarter that was gradually extended to a 20-point cushion midway through the final period. McGraw led the way with 14 points, as he and Porterfield again provided a scoring spark in relief, combining for 23 points and 13 boards. Ciani added 11, Kellin Casey 8, and Pelland, while scoring just two points, had seven rebounds as the Demons crushed the Panthers on the boards, 43-19.

The previous night in Palisade, the girls started well, bogged down in the middle two quarters as they encountered foul trouble, then finished strong, outscoring the Bulldogs 35-24 in the first and fourth frames to win 52-43. Palisade did draw within two, 40-38, with 5:28 to go in the game, but a three-point play on a drive to the basket by Cassidy Gaddis, and two of four free throws grannied in by Lexie Warkentin boosted the lead to 7. Kenzie Kuhn hit 6 of 8 from the stripe in the final minute to clinch the victory.

Gaddis led the scoring with 13, Kuhn added 11, and Kenzie Nelson-Buehler sparked the Demons off the bench with six points and 5 boards. Glenwood made 8 of 11 shots in jumping out to an 18-12 first-quarter lead, but shot just 10 of 32 the rest of the way. Making 10 of 16 free throws in the final quarter keyed a 17-12 advantage that kept the Bulldogs (7-11, 2-6) at bay.

“We’ve gotta keep winning,” Kuhn said, as the Demons host Moffat County next Friday in a first-place showdown, before finishing the regular season at Eagle Valley.