MEAD — Following a close 39-37 win over the Fort Morgan Mustangs on Tuesday, the Mead Mavericks girls basketball team returned home for the second portion of a back-to-back and jumped out of conference play Wednesday.
A much bigger test, the St. Mary's Pirates were the defending state champions in Class 3A and came into the game with an 8-0 record and ranked No. 1 in the CHSAANow.com girls poll. The Mavericks came out ready for the challenge early but could not keep the Pirates from creating turnovers and getting layups from their press defense, resulting in a tough 52-19 loss.
The bigger loss for the Mavericks in the game were starting guards Mary Maher and Savanna Griebling, both who left the game with ankle injuries.
"It didn't help up that our starting guards went out hurt and we were playing with two less guards," Mead coach Vern Rathbun said.
Maher was injured on one of the first possessions in the game making a pass to a teammate from the perimeter. She left within the first minute of the game and did not return.
After the game, she was seen wearing a boot and using crutches. Meanwhile, Griebling fell with her ankle injury just six seconds into the third quarter and also did not return, though she did do some stretching with the trainer on the sidelines to test her stability and mobility in the second half.
"We have a lot of big players, so we're going to have to use our post players," Mead's Maddie Muntz said. "It's unfortunate that two of our best guards are hurt."
Mead was able to overcome the loss of Maher in the first few minutes with a 6-0 run anchored by Abbey Glynn scoring and assisting on offense. Facing a 2-2-1 press defense from the Pirates, the Mavericks took care of the basketball and prevented them from getting turnovers and running in the transition early.
Success against the press did not last as the Pirates started to pressure new guards Maddox Boston and Hailee Martinez and got turnovers in the backcourt and quick run-outs the other way. A 16-0 run brought the SMHS lead to double figures before Muntz hit two free throws to end the quarter. More trouble taking care of the basketball helped the Pirates extend the lead, but the Mavericks would remain within 12 points going into the half down 25-13.
"We should have been better," Rathbun said. "You can't make mistakes like that against a team like that, or they will make you pay for it. (St. Mary's) made us pay."
When Griebling went down to start the third quarter, it put more pressure on the backup guards to handle the full-court press. The Pirates remained relentless.
"Our first half we came out strong, but you could tell in the second half we were starting to go down," Muntz said. "I think mentally we were down. Once they started to get up, we got down on ourselves."
Josephine Howery led all scorers with 14 points for the Pirates, Seneca Hackley followed with 13 and Brooklyn Valdez finished with 12. Boston was the top scorer for the Mavericks with six points as she saw significant playing time due to the injures.
Facing the defending state champs will provide lessons for the team moving forward as they push for a playoff spot, according to Muntz.
"It was a good teaching moment for us," Muntz said. "As the season goes on, I think we'll be able to learn from it and use it to our advantage."
But for now, the focus will be how the team adjusts if their two starting guards are out moving forward. Mead hosts Roosevelt (5-7, 0-5) in a Tri-Valley League matchup on Friday (5:30 p.m.)
"We have to get better," Rathbun said. "The girls coming off the bench will have to get better and we'll have to find depth somewhere. We only have four guards. Some girls might have to come down and play guard, and we'll have to find who can."
St. Mary's 52, Mead 19
At Mead High School
Maddox Boston 2 2-5 6, Maddie Muntz 1 2-2 4, Abbey Glynn 2 0-1 4, Savanna Griebling 0 2-2 2, Jackie Stephenson 1 0-0 2. Totals 5 7-14 19.
ST. MARY'S (9-0)
Josephine Howery 6 0-0 14, Seneca Hackley 5 1-4 13, Brooklyn Valdez 4 1-2 12, Ellie Hartman 2 2-2 6, Catherine Cummings 2 0-1 4, Mackenzie Pepper 1 0-0 3. Totals 20 4-11 52.
Score by quarters:St. Mary's (9-0) 16 9 19 8 — 52
3-point field goals — St. Mary's(8): Valdez 3, Howery 2, Hackley 2, Pepper; Mead(0). Total fouls — St. Mary's 17, Mead 13.