BROOMFIELD — Annika Lai is faster than you.
The Fairview junior has a quick first step that gives her the uncanny ability to beat just about any defender off the dribble and get herself open looks, or draw the defense to her and leave others open. On Tuesday night, she did so with alarming frequency against a Legacy team that did a lot of chasing defensively.
“I’ve been working really hard on my ball handling,” said Lai, who led the Knights with 17 points in a 57-34 rout of the Lightning in the Front Range League. “It was a really good win and I think this is the start of a very good season. I feel like this team has good chemistry and tonight we had a lot of energy and it was a great team effort.”
The Knights improved to 6-4 overall and 2-1 in the league and got a chance on Tuesday night to employ a press, which they had used in parts of every game this season, for an entire four quarters against the Lightning.
The Lightning had success breaking it most of the time when guard Jenna Fenton would simply use her speed and move the ball up court. But coach Craig Van Patten’s team just couldn’t find a way to finish on the offensive end. And the frustration of baskets not falling eventually turned into silly turnovers that allowed the Knights to take advantage.
“You have those nights when nothing falls and you just have to get yourself in position where you work hard enough in practice where you can get them in the game,” Van Patten said.
The lone bright spot for the Lightning was 6-foot-4 junior Courtney Smith, who finished with 19 points to lead all scorers.
Fairview forced the Lightning to commit 21 turnovers, a lot of which came via the press. It started clicking for the Knights in the second quarter when they were able to gain some separation and take a 27-18 lead into halftime.
The Knights, who had just five offensive rebounds against Horizon the last time out, made up for it big time against the Lightning. Fairview was getting two and sometimes as many as five chances to score with great hustle and work underneath.
“It’ll be interesting to look at the film. We try to make an emphasis of doing that and it was good that that was something that stood out tonight,” said Fairview coach Rod Beauchamp, whose team travels to Monarch on Friday night. “I like that and I liked our energy of getting after it defensively and playing 90 feet of basketball. A lot of girls contributed.”
Beauchamp constantly was rotating fresh legs in and out of the game, and that proved especially effective on the press. Offensively, after Lai’s 17 was senior Sarah Kaufman’s 14 then senior reserve Hannah Gould’s eight points.
“We knew this was a team that we could press and we had been working on it on and off,” Lai said. “This was really the first night we’ve done it the whole game and we kept subbing and I think that is what kept it fresh. We all supported each other and that’s why we had so much energy.”
Fairview 57, Legacy 34
FAIRVIEW (6-4, 2-1)
Annika Kuosman 0 0-0 0, Logan Tidstrom 0 0-0 0, Annika Lai 6 4-6 17, Emily Miley 1 0-0 2, Hannah Gould 3 0-0 8, Rebecca Vickers 1 0-0 2, Sarah Gordon 1 0-0 2, Madi Wolf 2 0-0 4, Caroline McKee 2 2-2 6, Erin Mooz 0 0-0 0, Kate Davenport 1 0-0 2, Sarah Kaufman 6 1-2 14. Totals 23 7-10 57.
LEGACY (4-7, 1-3)
Miranda Romo 0 0-0 0, Jordan Sheard 0 0-0 0, Maddie Gallegos 1 1-6 4, Katelyn Pedersen 0 0-0 0, Jenna Fenton 3 1-5 8, Taylor Hickerson 0 0-0 0, Morgan Kroll 0 3-6 3, Vanessa Romo 0 0-0 0, Rachel Dickson 0 0-0 0, Jackie Matthews 0 0-0 0, Courtney Smith 7 4-4 19. Totals 11 9-21 34.
Score by quarters:
Fairview 9 18 16 14 — 57
Legacy 12 6 9 7 –34
3-point field goals — Fairview (4): Gould 2, Lai, Kaufman; Legacy (3): Gallegos, Fenton, Smith. Total fouls — Fairview 17; Legacy 14.