Girls basketball: Monarch stays hot in win over Poudre

Coyotes improve to 6-1

Monarch High School sophomore guard Natalie ...
Tim Hurst/Staff Photographer
Monarch High School sophomore guard Natalie Guanella (1) puts up a layup during a game against Poudre High School on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, in Louisville, Colo.

LOUISVILLE — The girls basketball program at Monarch is sizzling in the second year of both rising star Natalie Guanella, and coach Mike Blakely.

It’s early — and then again, not really.

The sophomore guard scored 12 points to lead a balanced attack for the Coyotes as they beat Poudre 51-38 Wednesday night to stay in the thick of a league and postseason race as this brief regular season nears its conclusion.

Monarch (6-1, 4-1 5A Front Range League), after a first-round exit from the playoffs last winter, will have a tougher task in making this year’s tournament with the field trimmed from 48 to 32 teams as part of the changes due to the pandemic.

But so far, things are looking good.

“Last year was a good start but we lost more than we won in league,” Blakely said. “When you go back and look at it, we made the playoffs, but you go, ‘OK, how good were we really?’ (Now), we’re still playing against good teams in the league and I feel like we’ve beaten some teams that beat us last year. So, I think we’re taking a step forward.”

In a fourth win in five conference games, the Coyotes overwhelmed Poudre on both sides of the court. Teams that were even in record and nearly identical in scoring averages played to a mostly one-sided affair as the swarming defense and fast-break layups seemed to all go in the way of delight to the few home fans let inside Monarch’s gym.

The latest win adds to a resume that has been on a gradual rise the past month. The Coyotes, whose only loss of the season came at undefeated Fossil Ridge, were ranked 15th in this week’s coaches poll and were seventh in the 5A RPI coming into Wednesday.

Tim Hurst/Staff Photographer
LOUISVILLE, CO – FEBRUARY 17: Monarch High School sophomore forward Amelia Rosin (13) passes to a teammate during a game against Poudre High School on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, in Louisville, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

They host Loveland Friday with just six more games remaining.

“The end of the season comes fast, but if we don’t win those games the talk about playoffs doesn’t matter,” Blakely said.

Guanella scored in double figures for a seventh straight time this season, though the 12 tied her season low.

As it stands, she has about doubled her scoring average from a year ago at 17.3 points per game. Against the Impalas, she flashed a lightning quick attack to the rim, and a sweet stroke from the perimeter.

The sophomore and senior Chelin Isaacson hit from deep as part of a 14-5 second quarter that put the Coyotes up 30-14 at half. Guanella left defenders on their heels as she speared through the key for a hoop in traffic to extend the lead to 39-20 late in the third.

“Everyone has stepped up and I think we realize every game means so much more this year,” Guanella said. “Every time we play we’re trying to bring a new energy.”

Poudre got within 44-36 in the final 90 seconds, but Monarch extended its offensive possession with tight passes to burn clock. Guanella then fed Amelia Rosin for an easy layup on the front end of a three-point play to seal things.

Isaacson finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and four blocks for the Coyotes, while Arezo Safi had four points, 10 boards and three steals.

Rosin added nine points, and Anna Trujillo had six.