WINDSOR — Learning a new system has been a challenge in and of itself for the Mead girls basketball team.
Throw in an opening stretch of games that has included four Class 5A teams, and one could see why the Mavericks have had a bit of a slow start.
Facing Westminster on Friday night at a tournament in Windsor, however, Mead weathered a couple of Wolves rallies in the second half but were able to lead wire-to-wire in a 53-36 win to put MHS at 2-5 for the year.
Their schedule has included the likes of Poudre, Rocky Mountain and Fort Collins so far, but there's a certain feeling of optimism they'll be better for it come 4A Tri-Valley League play.
"I think it's going to be good for us, because we just got a new head coach and everything has changed," junior guard Anna Maher said after scoring 18 points and helping Mead end a five-game skid. "We have new offenses, and we just switched to a 1-3-1 defense, so it basically comes down to working our defense and playing it the entire game.
"These teams are 5A and they're quick, good teams so it's only making us better for our conference. It's exciting."
The Mavericks beat Niwot to open the season but had not won since. Against the Wolves, victory came by way of gaining an early lead and sticking together to fend off anything thrown at them.
They helped themselves tremendously with rebounds (they had 54 for the game) and ball pressure (forcing 23 turnovers). Offensively, after settling for mid-range shots in the first half the Mavericks — Maher in particular — started to look for the drive a little more against the zone defense.
After Westminster had cut Mead's halftime lead from 28-18 to 28-25 early in the third quarter, Maher scored eight of her points in the final three minutes of the frame to help bring the lead back up to 38-27.
Westminster (4-4) climbed to within 39-34 before Anna Veltien scored down low in back-to-back possessions — the second an and-1 chance with 2 minutes, 43 seconds left that made it 44-34. The Mavericks were able to keep up the pace the remainder of play.
Veltien finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds, and Abby Glynn added 11 rebounds for Mead.
"We think that we're a lot better team than what we showed tonight," said first year head coach Vern Rathbun, a veteran coach of several local teams. "We have a tendency to settle for the mid-range stuff when we could be taking it to the basket, and we need to change that a little bit. Anna Maher played a really good game in a lot of ways ... taking it to the basket was one and just playing smart on the point in our 1-3-1."
"We're usually the smaller team so we need to focus on boxing out and rebounding, especially offensively," Maher said, also finishing with nine rebounds.
Abby Cowley and Nicole Hamman had six points apiece. Mead will play yet another 5A squad in Bear Creek on Saturday in the Windsor tournament.
Mead 53, Westminster 36
At Windsor HS
Guzman 3 3-5 11, Aragon 4 0-1 11, Boltz 4 1-2 10, Martinez 0 0-0 0, Santisteven 0 0-0 0, Johnson 0 0-0 0, Gomez 0 2-2 2, Duran 0 0-0 0, DeHerrera 1 0-0 2, Dulys 0 0-0 0. Totals 12 6-12 36.
Kamigaki 0 0-0 0, Veltien 8 1-1 17, Brown 1 0-0 2, Glynn 1 1-4 3, Cowley 3 0-0 6, Maher 6 4-4 18, Hamann 2 2-2 6, Jacquet 0 0-0 0, O'Dell 0 0-0 0, Levine 0 1-2 1. Totals 21 9-13 53.
Score by quarters:Westminster 5 13 9 9 — 36
Mead 14 14 10 15 — 53
3-point field goals — Westminster (6): Aragon 3, Guzman 2, Boltz; Mead (2): Maher 2.