NIWOT — When push came to shove this week for the Centaurus girls basketball team, the Warriors were good for everything head coach Chris Mischke asked of them.
A lot of hiccups accompanied the two games they played, but he's hoping the team realizes just what it's going to take to defend their Northern League title of a year ago.
On Tuesday night, it was somehow rallying from a 16-point deficit at Mountain View to forge a 13-point win. Thursday, at Niwot, it was blowing a nine-point lead to start the fourth quarter before finding the right plays to make in the final 68 seconds for a 45-41 win.
Niwot's great effort was undone by a couple of turnovers late, but baskets from Helen Gover, Morgan Negrey and a pair of Gover free throws helped CHS escape the Niwot gym with a 5-1 league record and 12-3 mark overall.
"I talk to them about targets all the time and about how everybody wants to put the target on us because of last year," Mischke said after seeing his team commit just 11 turnovers but lose in the rebound battle 42-24. "This was one of those games because you could tell Niwot wanted us.
"It was an up-and-down game, for sure."
Morgan Negrey and her sister Riley combine to score 23 points, while Gover, the team's leading scorer had all six of her points in the final 2:06 of the game.
With Gover struggling to find her shot, the rest of the Warriors had to find ways to contribute. For Morgan Negrey, that's what has been special about the Warriors — they've gotten those selfish kind of plays a team needs every so often.
Thursday, junior reserve Rachel Koeller seemed to be that girl. The smallest player on the court, she had some big offensive rebounds and wasn't afraid to draw contact in the lane, making 5 of 6 free throws for her five points.
"In those moments so far this season, we've just kind of realized that we need to put it together, and even if we haven't been making shots just bring the intensity and (communication) to make the plays when it counts," Morgan Negrey said. "We've had girls just come in and ... are willing to do selfish plays that say, 'I'm going to get this rebound so that we can go on offense and we can get two points'."
It was a game of runs, and every time that Centaurus pulled ahead against the Cougars (7-7, 3-2), head coach Terri Ward's team was able to reel things back in. Centaurus lead 10-4 and 18-9 early, but it was just 22-16 at the half and the Warriors led just 28-26 with 4:10 left in the third quarter.
Both teams had massive scoring runs from there on out. Centaurus struck first with a 9-0 run to take a 35-26 lead into the fourth quarter. Then, with the help of some offensive rebounds and some push up the floor, Niwot scored the next 13 points.
Marlow Baines had consecutive and-1 opportunities and scored seven of her nine points in that stretch, and a pair of Sophie Grant free throws with 2:53 left that gave Niwot its first lead at 39-37.
Rosie Setter's mini-hook with 1:24 left made it 41-39, and that's when Mischke needed a time out. He looked to Gover, who was struggling from the floor, to drive to the hoop and with 1:08 left she answered the call. Centaurus was able to put it away with a nice pass from Riley Negrey to Morgan off an inbound play, and Gover sunk the team's 14th and 15th free throws of the game with 16.7 seconds left to put it on ice.
"We were in attack mode at the start, and that's just the perseverance of a Terri Ward team showing up," Mischke said. "We looked buzz-sawed (after the Setter make). Helen's a girl we look to, to score ... but even as she was struggling on offense and then on defense, I'm not taking her off the floor. She hit the shots to seal it and I couldn't be happier in that way."
Niwot was led by Baines's nine, and Jamie Lee also had nine points with three 3-point makes. Mary Gillett had eight points and 11 rebounds in the loss.
"We made a couple poor decisions down the stretch, but I can't help but be proud of our kids because there is not a team in this league that plays as hard as we do from start to finish," Ward said. "We got down nine, and at that point you can go, 'oh, well.' But to play the league leaders to a five-point game, it shows we belong in that top part of the league."
Centaurus 45, Niwot 41
At Niwot HS
CENTAURUS (12-3, 5-1)
Gover 2 2-2 6, Koeller 0 5-6 5, M. Negrey 4 4-5 12, Calvo 2 0-0 4, Licata 1 1-2 3, R. Negrey 4 3-5 11, Anderson 1 0-0 2, West-Renney 1 0-0 2. Totals 15 15-20 45.
NIWOT (7-7, 3-2)
Colvin 1 0-0 2, Sims 0 0-0 0, Lee 3 0-0 9, Bhat 0 0-0 0, Setter 3 0-1 6, M. Gillett 4 0-0 8, Storz 0 0-0 0, Sieban 0 0-0 0, Baines 4 1-2 9, Grant 2 3-3 7. Totals 17 4-6 41.
Score by quarters:Centaurus10121310—45
3-point field goals — Centaurus (0): None; Niwot (3): Lee 3. Fouled out — Gillett.