Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer
LONGMONT — Only the best basketball games come down to free throws, and Centaurus’ and Class 4A No. 3 ranked Mead’s girls played exceptional, exciting basketball on Tuesday night.
The teams went to the line a combined six times in the final three minutes before Mead escaped, just barely, with a 39-36 win.
“That was amazing,” Centaurus junior Alexa Lorton said. “I think that the team really pulled together well. I personally, at the beginning of the season, lacked in confidence and the team was able to lift me up. I feel like I’ve improved as a player but the team as a whole has just really come together. Confidence, I think, is it for us.”
Lorton led the Warriors with 10 points as junior shooting guard Laura Gensert and junior center Sam Sterritt followed her lead with nine and eight points, respectively. On the other side of the court, junior point guard Charlotte Brennan led the Mavericks with nine points while freshman shooting guards Darby Haley and Brooklynn Charlo aided in her efforts with eight and seven points.
Throughout the first half, the Mavericks’ full-court press disrupted the Warriors as they got up in their faces from every moment they inbounded the ball. A slow start from both teams gave way to a 10-6 Mead lead by the end of the first quarter, only to see both teams knock off the rust in the second.
Mead led 23-18 at the half thanks to a couple of key 3-pointers from Centaurus to close the gap down the stretch. Then the Warriors figured out the Mavericks’ defense.
Centaurus stepped up their own defensive pressure in the third frame to close the gap to just a single possession, 29-27, by the third quarter’s end. The Warriors continued to make a run until, with three minutes left on the clock, Lorton sunk a mid-range jumper to give them a 34-33 lead.
Mead shut down that charge to the finish, even though a made or missed free throw either way could have decided the game.
“(The full-court press) has honestly been a big part of our game since the beginning because (head coach JR Sagner) really likes to focus on defense,” Brennan said. “That’s something he capitalizes on and I feel like we really take pride in our defense.”
Centaurus, now 6-7 and 1-3 in the Class 5A/4A Northern League, will try to rebound when it heads to Skyline on Friday night. Mead (12-1, 4-0) will try to keep its six-game winning streak going when it hosts Erie the same night.
Mead boys dominate Centaurus in top-10 matchup
Mead boys basketball keeps proving why it’s one of the best teams in 4A basketball.
On Tuesday night, when No. 9 Centaurus came to visit, the No. 3 Mavericks took control early and never faltered en route to a 63-45 victory. Mead senior Elijah Knudsen, who dominated both inside and outside of the 3-point line, chalked it up to team chemistry and unselfish basketball.
“I feel like it’s an expectation for our team to go out and destroy everybody we play because we have that capability and we have the high level of players to do it,” Knudsen said. “The way we play together, the team’s just so close. All of us are good friends and we communicate well, we play well together and just win games because of that.”
He led his Maverick team with 22 points, an effort senior center James Shiers backed up with his own 15 points. Centaurus’ senior shooting guard John Lewicki, however, impressed the most with 24 points.
Shiers helped the Mavericks to a quick lead as he made his towering, 7-foot-1 presence felt early on. He alone outscored the entire Centaurus roster in the first quarter by netting nine points en route to a 17-6 MHS lead, only to see that advantage grow to 28-19 by the half.
From there on out, Mead systematically pulled farther and farther away from the Warriors to improve to 10-3 (4-0 league) as Centaurus fell to 10-4 and 1-3 in the Northern. Now, the Mavericks will look to continue their dominance at home against Erie on Friday as the Warriors will now focus their attention on a road game at Skyline on the same night.
“They got a great team,” Lewicki said. “They have shooters and we just couldn’t stop them tonight. I think that Mead team is going to make us a better team going into playoffs and the rest of league. I’m super happy with how we played tonight.”
Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer