NIWOT — Finishing last season with a winning record, the first time the Niwot girls basketball team had done so in a decade, left the Cougars anxiously awaiting the opportunity for a follow-up 2016-17 campaign.
That much was pretty obvious during the Cougars' season opener on Wednesday night. Playing host to the Frederick Warriors, the Cougars pulled away early with an energetic first quarter and started the season with a 55-43 win.
"I thought we came our really strong in the first quarter," sophomore forward Zoe Gonzales said. "We're really excited for this season and our new offense worked really well because when we pass the ball, there's always someone open. We learned a lot from last year and I think this season is going to be really fun."
Especially early on when the Cougars (1-0) built their lead, the visiting Warriors (0-1) had no answer for the Cougars guards' ability to find Gonzales open under the basket. At 6-foot-2, Gonzales led all scorers with 18 points and also chipped in seven blocks and eight rebounds to her team's effort. Running the triangle for the first time this season, the Cougars also scored 59 percent of their field goals off assists.
The Cougars started last season 6-0 on their way to a breakout 13-10 record. Though she said it was important to remember it was just one game, head coach Teri Ward said it felt good to get off to another good start.
"These guys are really motivated to work hard and I think it's the combination of how we're improving and the fact that they know how to play together and they really want to be good," Ward said. "They've been working about as hard as any group I've ever coached. They've got that going for them so if we keep that up, we should be in good shape."
The Warriors went 9-14 last season and trailed the entirety of Wednesday's opener. They did cut the Cougars' lead to seven points with 2 minutes, 17 seconds remaining before the home team pulled away again at the foul line. Sophomore Tori Dufour led the Warriors, who also have no seniors on the roster, with nine points.
The Cougars will host Erie on Friday night. Also on Friday, the Warriors will host Standley Lake.
Niwot 55, Frederick 43
At Niwot H.S.
Adelina DeSantis 0 1-2 1, Cadence Neu 2 0-0 6, Aspen Dufour 2 3-4 7, Mylie Tarnowski 3 0-0 8, Danielle Hemelstrand 2 0-1 4, Shea Chavez 1 5-8 7, Tori Dufour 4 0-0 9, Hailee Hurtado 0 1-2 1, Peyton Putallaz 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 10-18.
Ali Mercier 1 0-0 2, Allie Colvin 3 0-0 9, Jamie Lee 0 0-0 0, Rosie Setter 0 4-4 4, YY Chen 0 3-6 3, Meah Ricciardello 0 2-4 2, Mary Gillett 1 2-4 4, Zoe Gonzales 8 2-6 18, Sophie Grant 3 5-6 11, Shelby Stevens 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 18-30 55.
Score by quarters:Frederick 7 7 13 16 — 43
Niwot 14 7 18 16 — 55
3-point field goals — Frederick (5): Neu 2, Tarnowski 2, T. Dufour; Niwot (3): Colvin.