NIWOT -- The Niwot High girls basketball team knows it has plenty of work to do to get ready for its always-tough Northern League slate.
But two early-season victories in a row have given the Cougars the kind of confidence boost that might be just what they need to get their program moving back in the right direction after a 3-19 campaign a year ago.
Niwot held off an undersized-but-scrappy group from Denver West on Friday night to win 44-33.
The Cougars (2-2) struggled to handle the ball for much of the game. But they dominated West in the rebounding department 52-21, played stifling pressure defense themselves, and saw eight different players score in a balanced offensive effort.
"It helps set a good tone going into the (rest of the) season with a good couple of wins," said junior Anna Dunnell, who scored nine points, grabbed eight rebounds and snared a team-best seven steals.
In a game marred by 83 total turnovers between the teams, Niwot settled down in the second quarter and pulled away for good after trailing for most of the first.
Denver West's Angelique Ocon, who led all scorers with 18 points, hit a layup for a 12-11 lead to start the second quarter. But Niwot held West without another point until there was 3:20 to play in the third quarter. By then the Cougars had built a 36-12 advantage and merely had to preserve the lead in the fourth.
"I think we just had to slow it down a little bit," said Niwot senior Jacqui Sigg, who led the Cougars offensively with 11 points, including six in the second quarter when Niwot changed the course of the game. "We were playing their game a little bit and got out of control."
Sigg's 10-foot follow at the buzzer gave Niwot a 29-12 lead at halftime. The Cougars forced 16 turnovers in the second quarter thanks in large part to a full-court press that gave the Cowboys trouble all night.
"I think the more we work on (the press) the better we get," Sigg said.
In addition to Sigg and Dunnell, the Cougars, who host cross-town foe Mead on Tuesday, got seven points from Jaelyn Larson and six from Callie Hensen. Larson added five steals and seven rebounds while Deyja Enriquez had five of each.
"Any time you get wins it's a good thing," Niwot coach Clark Burton said. "We would have rather played better but wins are good.
"They did a great job rebounding. That's been one of our points of emphasis. We've still got a ways to go but we're moving in the right direction for sure."
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NIWOT 44, DENVER WEST 33
At Niwot HS
DENVER WEST (33)
Crespin 1 2-2 5, Gavin 2 0-2 4, Farrell 0 0-0 0, Copeland 0 1-2 1, Ocon 6 5-8 18, Wainess 0 0-0 0, Torres 0 1-4 1, Rivas 0 0-1 0, Huerta 2 0-1 4, Hale 0 0-0 0. Totals 11 9-20 33.
Montgomery 2 0-0 4, Hensen 2 2-4 6, Yie 0 0-0 0, Sarosi 0 1-4 1, Larson 3 1-2 7, McCaffrey 0 0-0 0, Calvert 1 1-2 3, Sigg 3 5-6 11, Enriquez 0 0-0 0, Pilewski 1 1-3 3, Dunnell 4 1-5 9. Totals 16 12-26 44.
Score by quarters:
Denver West 10 2 8 13 -- 33
Niwot 11 18 7 8 -- 44
3-point field goals -- Denver West (2): Crespin, Ocon; Niwot (0). Total fouls -- Denver West 21, Niwot 22. Fouled out -- Copeland, Wainess, Yie. Technicals -- None.