LAKEWOOD — Not by choice, the remainder of the season will be pretty different for the Lyons girls basketball team.
Realization came for the Lions on Thursday night in a game against Mile High League foe Denver Christian, as the host Thunder clawed their way to a 31-29 home win and handed Lyons its first loss since they found out senior captain Taylor Christiansen was going to miss the rest of the year.
Christiansen was present for the game, cheering her team on a few days before she has surgery on her hip — she aggravated an old injury and has not played since Jan. 6 at Dawson School.
Until Thursday, the Lions had actually rallied around each other and had gained impressive wins over Union Colony Prep and Highland — the latter of which is the arguable 2A contender in the league.
Thursday was a different story entirely, one with book-ended first and fourth frames full of costly mistakes.
"We just didn't execute well tonight," Lyons head coach Jason Maguire said after his team fell to 12-2 overall. "After the first quarter we picked things up a bit, but I have to give (Denver Christian) credit because they worked harder than we did at the start.
"We picked it up, but then we had some silly mistakes in the fourth quarter.
Entering the game with a team that scores about 48 points a contest, Lyons was slowed down by a bigger Denver Christian team — one that clogged passing lanes down low the whole night.
Lyons, also missing junior post Adele Walker (concussion), had trouble with entry passes but still hung in the game against a Denver Christian team that only averages 35 points. Ixchel Leeuwenburgh and Madison Johnson tried to work inside, but Leeuwenburgh was limited after picking up a fourth personal foul with 7 minutes, 28 seconds to go.
At the 7:02 mark of the fourth, Johnson hit a mini-hook shot to give LHS a 25-21 lead, but they could not extend that advantage — getting in more foul trouble with Liz Jonjak's fourth foul at 4:24 left and with the score 25-24.
Kylee Udovich hit a 3-pointer at 3:48 to make it 29-24, but little did they know that would be the last time they would score. DC's Miranda Kortenhoeven had three points in the final 1:16, and with the score tied at 29-29 freshman Kara Amidon drove and hit a tough shot off the glass with 2.4 seconds to go to lift the Thunder (8-6) to the win.
It was her only field goal of the game.
Leeuwenburgh and Johnson led Lyons with seven points apiece and the pair combined for 19 rebounds. But the Lions had 23 turnovers and a couple of gut-wrenching ones in the final minute of play.
"They were a step ahead of us at the beginning, and you could just tell they were more ready than we were," Leeuwenburgh said, noting a little overconfidence may have been a factor. "We've taken a few hits lately with injury, but I still think we're a good team. I hate losing as much as anyone, but it's good to get your eyes opened. It will make us stronger and more thankful for what we've worked hard for."
"You need games like this if you want to get to that next level," Maguire said. "It's though to swallow sometimes."
Denver Christian 31, Lyons 29
At Denver Christian School
LYONS (12-2, 5-1)
Maguire 0 0-0 0, Udovich 1 1-2 4, Johnson 3 1-4 7, Dillon 1 0-0 3, Jonjak 2 0-0 5, Leeuwenburgh 3 1-7 7, Hall 1 1-2 3. Totals 11 4-15 29.
DENVER CHRISTIAN (8-6, 3-2)
Beijer 2 2-2 7, Mueller 0 0-0 0, Peters 0 0-0 0, Herder 3 4-6 10, Amidon 1 1-2 3, Kortenhoeven 3 3-4 9, VanHeukelem 0 0-0 0, Hansum 1 0-2 2. Totals 10 10-16 31.
Score by quarters:Lyons 4 8 10 7 — 29
Denver Christian 6 8 7 10 — 31
3-point field goals — Lyons (3): Udovich, Dillon, Jonjak; Denver Christian (1): Beijer. Fouled out — Jonjak, Herder.