By KEVIN THOMPSON
For three quarters, the outcome was in doubt for the Hi-Plains League girls title on Saturday night at the Perryman Athletic Complex.
Both Cimarron and Elkhart attacked, both were not afraid to shoot, and both were hustling at both ends.
Then, with 5:10 remaining in the game, the Lady Jays used some clutch free throw shooting and good defense to go on a 15-6 run to take a 69-52 win.
Cimarron only cashed in three field goals in the final period but made 13-of-16 free throws. Elkhart, meanwhile, hit just one free throw and made only 5-of-16 field goals.
The victory was well-earned, Lady Bluejays coach David Ediger said.
This marks Cimarron's second title in six years, a span that includes three second places, as well.
"The girls earned this. They worked their tails off to get this and they deserve this," Ediger said. "And they earned it. It wasn't given to them. Elkhart played a great game."
He said his team worked on some things in Friday's practice that helped.
"And we were fighting and doing what we could do," he said. "I wanted the girls to play with a lot of intensity."
Up just 28-24 at halftime, the Lady Jays came out of the gates fast and strong. Taylor Siek hit all five of her shots in that quarter, including three straight at the start.
But the Lady Wildcats wouldn't go away. Payton Fleming matched Siek basket-for-basket in the early going. Victoria Fullerton scored three times in the middle of the period to keep Elkhart in it, including a three at the 1:42 mark.
But freshman Ashton Burns answered with her own three to give the Jays a 50-40 lead entering the pivotal fourth quarter.
In practice on Friday, Ediger said, his girls defense looked the toughest it has all season. In the game, they picked up a few more fouls than usual, but that shows how intense the defense was.
"We moved the ball well against their zone and had some good shots," Ediger said of his team's great shooting.
Cimarron (11-1) got nine girls in the scoring column, led by junior Avery Burns' 17, Ashton Burns with 16, and Siek with 15.
"It felt really good to play the way we did. Last year we didn't get into the championship game, so this feels really nice," Avery Burns said.
Fleming led Elkhart (7-4) with 14, and Fullerton added 10.
Elkhart 11 13 16 12 -- 52
Cimarron 15 13 22 19 -- 69
Elkhart - Hoskinson 2 2-3 6, Boaldin 0 0-1 0, Fullerton 4 1-3 10, Bookstore 0 1-2 1, Gonzales 3 2-3 8, Brewer 2 0-2 4, Fleming 5 4-5 14, Lutters 4 0-0 9. Total 20 10-19 52.
Cimarron - Av. Burns 6 4-10 17, Ash. Burns 3 8-9 16, Siek 6 0-0 15, Lock 0 3-4 3, Dupree 1 2-4 4, Bryant 1 2-4 4, Stokes 0 1-2 1, Wehkamp 3 1-2 7, Zamora 1 0-0 2. Total 21 21-35 69.
3-pt. goals - Elkhart 2 (Fullerton 1, Lutters 1), Cimarron 6 (Av. Burns 1, Ash. Burns 2, Siek 3). Fouled out - Fleming, Wehkamp.