LONGMONT -- Niwot's Forrest Lee feels he has a long way to go before he reaches his full potential this season. The road may be long, but Lee took more than a couple steps on Saturday night.
With a good Skyline team threatening a comeback in the fourth quarter, Lee came up with a huge driving layup that spurred a Cougars run and an eventual 51-40 victory.
"I kind of took over because they had their center on me," said Lee, who scored a game-high 15 points. "I knew I could get past him and either score a layup or get an assist."
The Cougars led nearly the entire game until the Falcons pulled within one point at 41-40 with three minutes left. But the Cougars ended the game on a 10-0 run to close it out.
Senior Nathan Merriman said the Cougars' primary concern on Saturday was how they would respond to the stress of the week, during which they had four games in six days. As the Cougars (4-3) have developed a reputation for flirting with adversity, Merriman said they wanted to be sure they rose to meet crucial challenges against the Falcons.
"The emphasis was on how we would respond to adversity in the game," Merriman said. "By now, we're pretty good at enforcing our will upon adversity."
With sharpshooter Dustin Mandrell in foul trouble early, the Falcons were forced into a one-dimensional offense that relied exclusively on their post game. Forwards Zach Anthony and Colton Dabney combined for 25 points and 17 rebounds.
Merriman felt the undersized Cougars did a good job of limiting the dangerous pair in the post.
"Physical and mental toughness played a huge part in guarding those two guys," Merriman said. "Obviously, we don't have anybody who can physically match up against them. So we had to be tough and bring down the guards to try to help out."
The Falcons (3-3) committed 23 turnovers, mostly in the first half, and shot 2 for 9 from the free-throw line in the last 2:30 of the game.
The game was also tied briefly at 34-34 with 30 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Falcons were without starting point guard Luciano Quesada, who will rest his injured knee until mid-January, again on Saturday. They also started two sophomores -- Justin Forsyth and Dominic Mansanares.
"We're trying to gain experience," Falcons head coach Mike Peterson said. "It's not a matter of us being competitive, because we are every game. We've lost three games by single digits with our best player out. I'll take it. But we have to get healthy and we have to continue to improve."
The Cougars will head into the holiday break on a positive note. The Falcons will face Silver Creek (3-1) on Tuesday.
Follow Brad on Twitter: @BradCochi
Niwot 51, Skyline 40
At Skyline HS
A. Hart 1 0-0 2, Keeler 1 2-6 4, Lee 5 4-4 15, Merriman 6 0-2 13, Mitelhaus -- 2-3 2, Kolakowski 5 0-1 11, Bounds 1 2-2 4, Colwell 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 10-18.
Soriano 0 0-0 0, Torrez 0 0-0 0, Dabney 6 2-7 14, Mandrell 2 4-4 10, Forsyth 2 1-6 5, Stuvel 0 0-0 0, Lucero 0 0-0 0, Anthony 4 3-3 11, Mansanares 0 0-1 0. Totals 14 10-21 40.
Score by quarters:
Niwot 12 13 14 12 -- 51
Skyline 5 13 16 6 -- 40
3-point field goals -- Niwot (3): Lee, Merriman, Kolakowski; Skyline (2): Mandrell. Total fouls -- Niwot 25, Skyline 18. Fouled out -- Keeler, Dabney, Mandrell, Manzanares. Technical fouls -- None.