Girls basketball: Echols shines as Longmont Christian wins ninth straight

LONGMONT — The eight-game win streak the Longmont Christian girls basketball team was on entering Tuesday was not in jeopardy of coming to an end, despite the team not playing their best against the Clear Creek Golddiggers.

Whitney Echols scored 17 points to lead the Warriors in their 46-28 win, marking her ninth straight game in double figures after a career-low two points in a Jan. 8 loss to the Dawson Mustangs. That was the last time, however, the Warriors suffered defeat.

“That’s a game I wish I could have back,” Echols said. “I know I need to stay calm, play our game and do what we know how to do well. I was missing every shot and we were competing against ourselves (that night). We need to stay out of our heads and stay calm.”

On Tuesday, Echols made three of her first six shots from behind the 3-point line and added a layup for 11 quick points in the first half.

Before the 3-point shooting from Echols got going, Longmont Christian worked to get multiple players into a rhythm from the start. Head coach Zach Echols called plays to three different players from the start and had five different players score in the first quarter alone as the Warriors took an 18-6 lead.

“Our first three to four possessions were mapped out,” coach Echols said. “We went to Whitney, Jessica (Schneider) and Taylor (Vandenburg). We wanted to get them going early. I do think that gets everybody else going as well.”

Schneider scored four times in the paint to finish with eight points. Vandenburg had six points in the first half but left just before halftime with an ankle injury and did not return. Ellie Echols also provided a lift from the perimeter with three shots made behind the arc for nine points.

The scoring kept Longmont Christian in the lead, but the team struggled to pull away. Instead, the Warriors had to rely on their defense to shut down the Clear Creek offense. A full-court press created some turnovers while the half-court defense was getting hands in the faces of shooters to make them take contested shots throughout the night.

Longmont Christian has held seven of its last nine opponents to 30 points or fewer on its current win streak. Clear Creek was held to 26 percent shooting from the field in the game.

“Now we’re able to switch from man-to-man to a zone,” Zach Echols said. “They are feeling comfortable with it and it’s causing a lot of confusion and chaos. That is part of their identity.”

The streak could reach 10 straight wins this week when the Warriors travel to face Twin Peaks Charter Academy (4-12, 1-8) on Friday. Next week will be the big tests to keep the win streak going when they travel to face the Highland Huskies on Feb. 12 and host the Resurrection Christian Cougars two days later. More importantly, playing those games to finish the regular season will help them prepare for their district tournament in Sterling.

Before the team returns to the court, however, they have a piece of business to take care of Wednesday when Whitney signs to continue her basketball career at Florida College in Temple Terrace, Fla.

“It’s been my dream ever since I was 5 years old,” Whitney said. “I remember being outside in the rain working on my left-handed layups, working on the rec teams and stuff. I’ve always wanted to go to Florida College. It’s a school that I’ve always wanted to go to, so this is a dream come true.”

Brandon Boles: bboles@prairiemountainmedia.com or twitter.com/BrandonBoles

Longmont Christian 46, Clear Creek 28

At St. Vrain Memorial Building

CLEAR CREEK (6-10, 4-5)

Loralei Murphy 4 0-2 8, Aliya Singleton 2 4-6 8, Breyda Spinner 2 0-0 4, Paige Murphy 2 1-2 5, Hannah Combrink 1 0-0 2, Crystal Onago 0 1-2 1. Totals 11 6-14 28.

LONGMONT CHRISTIAN (13-3, 8-2)

Whitney Echols 5 4-8 17, Ellie Echols 3 0-0 9, Jessica Schneider 4 0-4 8, Taylor Vandenburg 3 0-0 6, Sammie Johnson 2 0-0 4, Kaitly Schanafelt 1 0-0 2. Totals 18 4-12 46.

Score by quarters:

Clear Creek (6-10, 4-5)                     6 7 8 7  — 28

Longmont Christian (13-3, 8-2)           18 8 10 10  — 46

3-point field goals — Clear Creek (0); Longmont Christian (6): Whitney Echols 3, Ellie Echols 3. Total fouls — Clear Creek 9, Longmont Christian 13.