LITTLETON — Monarch's one-two punch of Emerson Herrmann and Nicole Reading put their team in position to get into the win column Wednesday night.
Close, but no.
Herrmann had her potential game-winning jumper blocked by Vista Ridge's Darian Taylor at the buzzer as the Wolves handed the Coyotes their fifth straight loss to open the season, 45-44 in the first round of the Holiday Classic Tournament at Dakota Ridge.
Herrmann led Monarch (0-5) with a career-high 23 points, including 18 of her team's first 20 points. Reading added 15 of her 17 points in the final 14:16 of the game, including five 3s.
The Coyotes — whose 44 points was their most this season— are still in search of consistency on the offensive end without Division-I graduates Peyton Carter and Jasmine Jeffcoat, who made up about 60 percent of the team's scoring a year ago.
It's a process.
"I think it's definitely a building year for our team losing those two seniors last year," Reading said. "Emerson and I, having learned under Peyton and Jasmine, we're kind of stepping into those shoes and taking on that leadership role."
Wednesday's game had 12 lead changes and six in the fourth quarter alone.
After freshman Chelin Isaacson's two free throws cut the deficit to 45-44 with 2:47 left in the game, Monarch had a couple looks to go ahead.
Herrmann took an inbounds pass for the final chance with 2.2 seconds remaining, but Taylor made a nice read and sent her shot away.
"I was trying to V-cut and then I would have gotten open for the shot," Herrmann said. "I guess I didn't get her off enough."
Better days are ahead for a team of no seniors and two starting freshmen. Growing pains are part of it.
On this night, the Coyotes were called for a technical foul in the opening seconds due to a clerical error. Vista Ridge was awarded two shots and made one.
"We're young and we're a building program," first-year coach Carlee Lough said. "This is a victory for us in a sense. Unfortunately, it was my bad because the book wasn't right."
Early on, Herrmann put the team on her back, fighting off defenders for second-chance baskets and often changing pace with transition 3 attempts.
She scored 16 points in the opening half before making way for Reading for much of the second. The juniors combined for every point for Monarch until Anna Trujillo's jumper with 1:15 left in the third.
Next, the Coyotes continue a stretch of four games in five days as they'll face Doherty in the tournament Friday.
"This was a positive (performance)," Reading said. "0-5 is a tough thing to bounce back from, so we're going to have to dig deep and find it within ourselves to pull out a win here in our next couple games."
Vista Ridge 45, Monarch 44
VISTA RIDGE (1-1)
Hancock 0 0-0 0, Rohr 9 1-2 24, Watkins 0 0-0 0, Anders 0 0-0 0, Small 0 1-2 1, Tubbs 3 1-2 8, Key 0 0-0 0, Wortkoetter 1 0-0 2, Taylor 3 0-0 6, Robinson 2 0-2 4. Totals 18 3-8 45..
Morgan 0 0-0 0, Reading 6 0-0 17, Russo 0 0-0 0, Schmanski 0 0-0 0, Trujillo 0 0-0 0, Butler 1 0-0 2, Taht 0 0-0 0, Isaacson 0 2-2 2, Herrmann 9 3-4 23. Totals 16 5-6 44.
Score by quarters:Vista Ridge 13 10 13 9 — 45
Monarch 8 10 13 13 —44
3-point field goals — Vista Ridge (6): Rohr 5, Tubbs; Monarch (7): Reading 5, Herrmann 2.