Paonia girls basketball complete undefeated 2A title run

Paonia girls basketball champions

(Cannon Casey/CHSAANow.com)

LOVELAND — The perfect season is finally complete after Paonia girls basketball topped Wray 59-42 in the Class 2A championship game.

Even sweeter was a shot at redemption that didn’t go to waste.

An entire year has passed since the Paonia girls basketball team last suffered defeat, but the 2016 runners-up held on to that memory until it was finally made right on Saturday night at the Budweiser Events Center.

Back in the Class 2A state championship game for the second straight season, this time the Eagles brought home their first title since 2010 with the win over Wray.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling that’s hard to describe because it hasn’t all set in yet,” said senior forward McKenna Hartigan. “It was a full team effort and I couldn’t have done it without them. We were done with silver and ready for gold.”

Paoinia (25-0) and Wray (19-7) exchanged offensive strikes in a tight first quarter that finished tied 13-13 after senior Brittany Kendall hit a half-court shot to beat the buzzer.

In the ensuing quarter is when Paonia started to distance itself from its opponent when Hartigan began to find her groove. She poured in nine of her team-high 16 points in that frame to help her team build the 11-point cushion they entered halftime with.

“That was big. I feel that McKenna (Hartigan) is the one who bailed us out there in the first half. She played a fantastic game,” coach Scott Rienks said. “We also had a lot of the other experienced players step up and help that effort later on.”

Continuously adding to its lead, Paonia spread the wealth among its senior-heavy lineup.

Sophia Anderson finished the game with 16 points to join Hartigan’s team-high mark. Emily Peiper also reach double figures with 11 points of her own, while McKenna Palmer contributed seven.

“It was such an amazing experience to share with all of my teammates,” Hartigan said. “This is what we’ve always stayed working for.”

Wray’s campaign at adding to its seven program titles, which ranks third among all classifications, fell short, but also had its share of high moments. The Eagles knocked off their rival and defending champion Yuma the day prior to earn a berth in the title game.

Leading Wray on Saturday was 24 points from Morgan Smith, which led all scorers from both teams.

Paonia’s undefeated 25-0 mark was the exclamation point to end it all, standing as the program’s best-ever record just in front of the 2010 team that finished 25-1.

“That 2010 team sent messages and flowers to the girls before the game,” Rienks said. “It’s just special because we’re all still family.”