BOULDER -- Although the 2012-13 Legacy girls basketball team is a vastly different bunch than the group that brought home the Class 5A state championship last season, the Lightning nonetheless still boasts a wealth of big-game experience.
And that, perhaps, is why Legacy refused to fold in a close fourth quarter on the road Tuesday.
Two holdovers from last year's title team, senior Mackenzie Neely and sophomore Courtney Smith, combined to hit several clutch shots during the final frame, leading the Lightning to a 42-33 win at Fairview in a Front Range League showdown.
Neely scored all 11 of her points after halftime. Although Smith finished with just seven points, she scored four in the fourth quarter, including a late 3-pointer that diffused the Knights' final push.
It was the second consecutive win for Legacy on the heels of a stretch in which the Lightning lost four times in five games.
"We knew we were a better team, and the mindset we needed to have was just that we had to play better than they were," Smith said. "We needed to be smarter on offense. It wasn't that their defense was killing us. We were shooting ourselves in the foot. We definitely had some players out there like Mackenzie who played exceptional.
"We're both returning varsity players and we knew we couldn't force it."
The game was tied 25-25 entering the fourth, but the Lightning outscored the host Knights 17-8 during the final frame to steadily pull away.
Neely broke the tie for good early in the fourth with a 3-pointer, the first of seven points she scored in the period. Legacy (6-5, 2-2 Front Range League) held a five-point lead when Fairview's Sarah Kaufman hit the first of two 3-pointers in quick succession that brought the Knights to within 33-31 with just under 3 minutes remaining. But Smith's 3-pointer kept Fairview at bay and started a 9-2 Legacy run that closed the game.
Kaufman's two 3-pointers accounted for the only field goals Fairview (5-5, 1-2) made during a fourth quarter that saw the Knights go 2 for 12 from the floor.
"We've been in some close games this year, and I think we learned from those," Legacy coach Craig Van Patten said. "I think we moved the ball better and played a little bit better defense (in the fourth). We had to handle their pressure and get some good shots off, and I think that's what we did in the fourth quarter."
Neely's 11 points paced the Lightning, while Caitlyn Smith and Bree Paulson each added nine points. Annika Lai led Fairview with 13 points and Kaufman finished with 11. It was the fourth loss in five games for the Knights.
"Offensively, we had some good looks that didn't fall," Fairview coach Andre Goldberg said. "The difference between winning and losing sometimes is very small. We did some really good things tonight. We just have to find a way to manufacture some more points offensively.
"Annika did a good job tonight attacking and broke out of her slump a little bit. We just have to pick up the pace a little bit and try to get some easier baskets."
Follow Pat on Twitter: @prooney07
Legacy 42, Fairview 33
At Fairview HS
LEGACY (6-5, 2-2)
Lopez 1 0-0 2, Neely 3 4-5 11, Caitlyn Smith 4 1-2 9, Paulson 3 2-3 9, Courtney Smith 2 1-2 7, Fenton 0 0-0 0, Gallegos 2 0-0 4. Totals 15 8-12 42.
FAIRVIEW (5-5, 1-2)
Kuosman 1 0-0 3, Lai 5 3-4 13, Davenport 0 0-0 0, Ryder 3 0-2 6, Kaufman 4 0-0 11, McKee 0 0-0 0, Breakell 0 0-0 0, Wolf 0 0-0 0, McCambridge 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 3-6 33.
Score by quarters:
Legacy 8 11 6 17 -- 42
Fairview 11 5 9 8 -- 33
3-point field goals -- Legacy (4): Courtney Smith 2, Paulson, Neely; Fairview (3): Kaufman 3. Total fouls -- Legacy 11, Fairview 14.