DENVER — Pueblo South survived and advanced to the Class 4A girls basketball championship.
"Our gameplan was to come out strong right from the tip-off. Just give it our all," senior Hannah Kochen said. "We had to push the ball and make sure we had defensive stops. That was our goal."
Windsor gave the Colts a mighty scare in the girls basketball Final 4 in a 53-41 game. Pueblo South started with a red-hot 9-2 run led by Kochen's seven points. That would be a theme for the Colts.
"She's a senior and I think she's feeling it," coach Shannan Lane said. "She feels like she can take over if she needs to like today.
"We've had different players step up throughout the season — we've had games where Hannah (Kochen) scored six. Throughout the season, we've had different kids in double figures. Hannah waits until it's her time — she's a very unselfish player."
The game consisted of runs from both sides: Pueblo South had a 9-2 run, and Windsor had an 11-2 run.
That 11-2 run by Windsor got the Wizards back into the game at the end of the second half. They rode the momentum into the third quarter where the game became a boxing match with each team trading baskets.
"We went flat. We had some miscommunication on defensive possessions which drives me crazy because all they had to do is open their mouth," Lane said. "We knew they ran a five-out offense, and it's tough to board when you get crashers from the three-point line. We didn't take care of the boards the first half. We did a little better job the second half."
Kochen announced herself yet again on the court with a three pointer midway through the third quarter to give Pueblo South a 32-30 lead. She had 24 points in the game.
"I have to give the credits to my teammates," Kochen said. "They got me open, so all the credit goes back to my teammates. It's a team sport."
The Colts held the lead the rest of the game.
Kochen scored on back-to-back possessions in the final minute of the third to stretch the lead over Windsor 40-32 with 28.6 seconds left in the quarter. She had seven points in the third quarter alone. In the fourth, Pueblo South extended the lead to 10.
"We had to push each other, we had to make sure defense came first because defense wins games," Kochen said. "Our defense really had to step up."
Besides Kochen's streaky scoring, the difference for Pueblo South came inside with Gabi Lucero. Lucero was a force on both ends in the lane.
"She does so much for us on the boards," Lane said. "She can rebound and use her body inside and reach up and get it."
Her style of play fit the game perfectly. She got second, even third-effort rebounds. She got blocks, she altered shots, she bodied her opponent in the paint.
Lucero finished with eight points, 14 rebounds and four blocks. A senior, this is her last run.
"Her knee has been bothering her — she's got one more game and she may be heading into surgery after this," Lane said. "We're just trying to keep her as healthy as we can."
Windsor had extremely balanced scoring and came out with a never-back-down attitude. Michaela Moran and Hollie Hoffman gave the Wizards solid efforts with eight and 14 points, respectively. `
The only in-state blemish for the Spartans was a 68-50 loss to Evergreen's opponent in the Final 4: Pueblo West.