LONGMONT -- When they darted to an early 19-point lead, Mead girls basketball players had no idea it'd be this stressful.
The Mavericks had to shake off injuries to two of their starters and a furious rally by the home team before escaping the Skyline gym with a 53-49 Tri-Valley League win Tuesday night.
"It was a little sketchy, but we believed in ourselves and were able to pull it out," Mead sophomore Rylee Ward said.
Starting guard Marina Hanlon suffered an apparent knee injury in the second quarter and was shelved for the game. The Mavericks won't know how serious it is until Wednesday.
Then, in the third quarter, Samantha Kalivas banged her head on the floor near the baseline while battling Skyline's Deandra Elcock for a loose ball. She soon returned to the bench and appeared plenty lucid, but the Mavericks (10-7, 5-3) weren't taking any chances.
Instead, they sweated out a key road victory that marked their fifth win in their past seven games. With the starters shelved, Ward scored a season-best 14 points and fellow reserves Kari Lozinski and Katie Maher also delivered key contributions.
Lozinski (eight points, six rebounds) was instrumental in helping Mead build a 31-14 halftime advantage. Maher drilled two perimeter shots in the third quarter to help diffuse the first of two big runs by the Falcons (8-8, 2-6).
"Rylee, Katie and Kari coming off the bench, they were huge for us tonight," Mead coach Michael Ward said. "Those two shots Katie hit, that was at a time when we had gone into a drought for an extended amount of time."
Although the reserves played well, Mead was unable to utilize its regular substitution pattern and Skyline fiercely responded. The Falcons outscored Mead 35-22 after intermission, including the final seven points of the contest.
When the final buzzer sounded, it felt more as if Skyline had run out of time rather than lost.
"During halftime, we knew that we weren't playing our game at all," Skyline center Naomi Barron said. "The first half was not our best. We decided we were going to come back and leave it all on the floor, and it actually worked out for us."
Barron was a commanding presence in the middle with 12 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots, and perimeter threats Elcock and Kaylee Spencer did the majority of their damage late.
Mead had a bit of Denver Nuggets syndrome at the end too, missing a boatload of free throws that could have closed out the contest. Mavericks top scorer Kasey McKrola had a rare silent game offensively with eight points (although she grabbed 10 rebounds), which further accentuated the contributions of the bench.
With Hanlon and Kalivas out, many reserves' playing time elevated to starter-like minutes.
"They are a lot of our points, so we really had to have some other girls step up today -- and we really did," Rylee Ward said. "A lot of our girls stepped up to the plate and showed what they're really made of."
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Mead 53, Skyline 49
At Skyline HS
MEAD (10-7, 5-3)
Martinez 2 0-0 4, Hanlon 2 0-2 5, Majerus 1 6-8 8, McKrola 3 2-6 8, Kalivas 0 0-0 0, Maher 2 0-0 4, Daly 0 2-2 2, Lozinski 2 4-6 8, Ward 6 0-1 14. Totals 18 14-25 53.
SKYLINE (8-8, 2-6)
Spencer 2 2-2 7, Emanuel 1 1-3 3, Elcock 4 2-5 12, Barron 4 4-6 12, C, Curtis 1 2-4 4, A. Curtis 1 0-0 3, David 2 0-1 4, Steed 2 0-1 4. Totals 17 11-22 49.
Score by quarters:
Mead 22 9 11 11 -- 53
Skyline 9 5 17 18 -- 49
3-point field goals -- Mead (3): Ward 2, Hanlon; Skyline (4): Elcock 2, Spencer, A. Curtis. Total fouls -- Mead 18, Skyline 16. Fouled out -- None. Technical fouls -- None.