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Girls basketball: Niwot falls to Denver North in spirited early season game

NIWOT — Coming off an 0-14 campaign in the delayed 2020-21 season earlier this year, the future is quickly looking up for the Niwot Cougars girls basketball team.

Friday night, although they eventually lost 46-40, the Cougars erased a 13-point third quarter deficit against a lengthy Denver North squad at home. First-year Niwot head coach Jon Hill said the comeback attempt, however short, was an impressive display of fight in the second game of the season.

“I think that just speaks to the heartbeat of our team,” Hill said. “We’re a tough team. It didn’t go the way that we wanted to and it was just execution down the stretch. If we clean that up, we’ll be good.”

The loss was Niwot’s first of the season one night after beating Denver West in its season opener.

Freshman Rose Pacheco led Niwot with 12 points and is a large reason for the increased optimism surrounding Niwot girls hoops. Her speed and touch in the paint were critical for Niwot building an early 15-7 lead. Hill wasn’t surprised at all to see Pacheco become a strong scoring threat so early into the season.

“She’s a hard working individual committed to the team and we knew that was coming,” Hill said.

Senior Carly Toothaker had a strong showing as well. She drained Niwot’s only pair of 3-pointers and finished the night with 10 points.

Sometimes, all it takes is a poor stretch of basketball to lose a game. Denver North opened the second quarter on an 11-0 run to take an 18-15 lead that held up until the fourth quarter.

With Niwot trailing 35-22 midway through the third, the Cougars put together a 13-0 run that ended in freshman Evelyn Mills hitting two free throws to tie the game. While Denver North had a strong height advantage, Niwot excelled in executing fast breaks and playing pesky defense.

“We really tried to push the pace and tire them out as much as we could, as well as just frustrating their offense,” Toothaker said.

Denver North, however, scored six unanswered to put the game away. While the loss stung, Hill saw it as a learning opportunity.

“We absolutely want to get this one out of the way early,” Hill said. “It matters, we care about it, we want to win, but at the end of the day, we’ll put it to bed and we’ll go back to work.”

Fortunately for the Cougars, they’ll have a chance to improve upon their 1-1 record on Saturday when they host Middle Park to conclude a three-day round robin tournament.

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