The fact that Friday night's Longmont-Mead girls basketball game was a close, back-and-forth affair in the first half shouldn't have surprised anyone.
After all, the teams split their two games last season, with just five points separating their cumulative point totals against one another.
What was a little surprising was how the game's complexion changed so rapidly at the start of the second half, as Mead went on an 18-2 run immediately after intermission to win the season opener for both teams 41-28 at LHS.
"We went into the locker room and told each other we're not playing our game and our basketball," said Mead senior Anna Maher, who scored a game-high nine points. "When you get the momentum like that, you can't predict it. But once we had it, we were not ready to lose it. We just wanted to keep with it."
In the third quarter, the Mavericks stepped up their defense and Longmont turned the ball over 11 times and went just 1-for-5 from the field. Meanwhile, after Mead had racked up 16 turnovers in the first half, it added just one to the total in the third period.
Riley Gilbert catalyzed the surge by scoring on two straight putbacks to break the 16-16 tie at halftime, and Mead never let up.
"At halftime we talked about putting more pressure on the ball and that created more steals and fastbreaks," said MHS coach Vern Rathbun, whose team is coming off a 13-11 season. "It was the direct result of defense creating it. It never surprises me when we get a run if we get it going on defense. When you create steals and turnovers, good things happen."
Thanks in good part to that Mead defense, Longmont finished the game with 30 turnovers and 9-for-31 accuracy from the field.
"It was a little discouraging because I feel our girls are better than what they showed in that (third) quarter," said coach Mike Knaus, whose Trojans went 9-15 last season. "Early in the season we're going to have some ups and downs. We need to work through adversity and make better decisions.
"I think we're going to be a pretty good team once we get the kinks worked out. But the execution and the decision-making has to be a lot cleaner."
Supplementing Maher's nine points Friday for Mead were senior Anna Veltien (eight points) and Gilbert (seven). But the Mavericks have some cleaning up of their own to attend to after 24 turnovers and 16-for-43 field goal shooting vs. Longmont.
"We're happy to have gotten the win," said Rathbun, whose team will play 10 games but have only five practices in December. "It's great because we know we can play better. We don't feel like we played anywhere near what we're capable of."
Meanwhile, Longmont was led offensively on Friday by Evangeline D'Epagnier (seven points) and Jenna Moore (six).
Next up, Mead faces another area rival, playing at Niwot on Monday at 6:30 p.m. Longmont meets Fort Collins on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
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Mead 41, Longmont 28
Maher 1 6-8 9, Veltien 4 0-0 8, Gilbert 3 1-2 7, Glynn 2 0-3 4, O'Dell 1 3-6 5, Hernandez 2 0-0 4, Levine 0 1-2 1, Romero 1 1-2 3. Totals 14 12-23 41..
Wiley 0 0-0 0, Wetterstrom 1 3-4 5, Carney 2 1-4 5, Fixmer 1 0-0 2, D'Epagnier 3 1-3 7, Moore 2 2-4 6, Gray 0 3-6 3. Totals 9 10-21 28..
Score by quarters:Mead791411—41Longmont106210—28
3-point field goals — Mead (1): Maher. Total fouls — Mead 23, Longmont 18. Fouled out — Wiley.