Cimarron uses late surge to take HPL girls crown
By KEVIN THOMPSON
Bettors would have liked the odds for Cimarron to win the Hi-Plains League girls title on Saturday night against Meade.
How they did it would have been much harder to handicap.
The Lady Bluejays, the state's No. 3-ranked team in Class 3A, remained undefeated with a 75-61 win over Meade at Perryman Athletic Complex in a game that was more hotly contested than the final score indicated.
Cimarron held just a 1-point lead at the end of the third period, but they rediscovered their game in the fourth to create the illusion that this was another easy win.
It was anything but that.
Meade came out the aggressor in the first quarter, taking a 22-19 lead at the break behind 13 points by Bailey Olvera.
As well, all five of Cimarron's starters picked up two fouls in that quarter and were forced to back off on defense. But the Lady Jays made adjustments in the second period, cut back on the fouls, outscored the Lady Buffaloes 22-13, and took a 41-35 lead at the half.
In that quarter, Cimarron took the lead with three minutes remaining on Morgan Ediger's 3 (her first field goal of the game), and increased that lead to 6 on threes each by Kari Blattner and Ashtynn Burns.
Despite picking up 8 fouls in the third quarter, Meade outscored Cimarron 17-12 to get within one, 53-52, heading to the fourth.
That's when Cimarron took over. Taking advantage of a slew of turnovers, the Jays got the lead to 64-52 before Olvera scored with at the four-minute mark.
But the Lady Jays had the advantage of momentum and depth as they ran a slow-down offense the rest of the way.
Burns led all scorers with 23 points. Eva Koopman came off the bench to score 17, and Ellen Waters, the Jays' lone senior, added 15.
Olvera led Meade with 19 points, and Kinzie Friesen added 14.
This was Cimarron's seventh finals in the past eight years, but just its third win in that span.
Despite being down early, Cimarron coach David Ediger said his girls kept their composure in staging the comeback and pulling away.
"These girls don't get rattled. They just kept playing and stuck with what we did and listened to a few adjustments that we made, and executed well," he said. "That was a good game for us."
The early foul trouble led to some necessary adjustments at halftime. The officials were calling a tight game, and that meant making some changes, Ediger said.
"I told them we've got to learn faster. If our teammate gets a foul, and another gets a foul, that's not what we're used to but we've got to back off," he said. "I didn't tell them early enough, I guess. We like to play aggressive, but we don't usually foul like that."
Meade's defense forced Cimarron to run offense very wide outside, which Ediger said they planned for, especially with some long players inside on defense.
"They try to push you outside, and we didn't execute early because, no matter how you try, they do it like they do it. We finally got it figured out at halftime," he said.
Ediger said his girls learned that they can play in any game. If they get down, things are going to be OK if they just keep their cool and figure things out.
Meade coach Craig Batchman said his team played hard, but probably just got worn out by the fourth quarter.
The quality first quarter his girls put on was a pleasant surprise, though.
"I was impressed by how we were pushing the ball, which kind of caught Cimarron by surprise," he said. "Last time we played, they had success trapping us. I think we did a better job handling the ball tonight. They played the best they have in quite a while."
The 32-27 edge in rebounding was the best his team has done this season, Batchman said.
Meade's largest lead was only 7, and 24 turnovers prevented it from being larger, he added. But despite that, Batchman liked his team's effort and what it means going forward.
"It means we can play with the best of them. Our girls really had the confidence tonight and wanted this game," he said. "We'll work from that and see what happens."
The teams have had several tough battles over the past few seasons, having met in the HPL tourney often. But the most memorable for the Lady Buffs was in 2011 when they hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to upset the Lady Jays and win the Class 2A sub-state championship.
Meade 22 13 17 9 -- 61
Cimarron 19 22 12 22 -- 75
Meade (7-4) — Olvera 6 7-8 19, Luetters 2 0-0 4, Harshberger 0 0-1 0, A. Rudzik 2 1-2 6, Miller 3 0-1 6, Thompson 1 0-0 2, Wiens 3 2-6 8, J. Rudzik 1 0-0 2, Friesen 3 8-8 14. Totals 21 18-26 61.
Cimarron (12-0) — Burns 7 6-6 23, Meis 1 0-00 2, Blattner 2 0-3 6, Hoskinson 1 1-2 3, Waters 7 1-1 15, Ediger 3 1-2 9, E. Koopman 7 3-8 17. Totals 28 12-22 75.
3-pt. goals — Meade 1-5 (A. Rudzik), Cimarron 7-17 (Burns 3, Blattner 2, Ediger 2). Rebounds — Meade 32 (Friesen 11, Olvera 6), Cimarron 27 (E. Koopman 11). Turnovers — Meade 24, Cimarron 12. Fouled out — Cimarron (E. Koopman). Total fouls — Meade 24, Cimarron 18. Technical fouls — none.