GOLDEN — The reality was simple Friday night at Golden High School.
The loser of the Class 4A Jeffco League showdown between Golden and Valor Christian — both ranked in the top-10 of CHSAANow.com 4A girls basketball poll — would sit three games behind No. 2 Evergreen in the conference standings. The winner on the other hand would still cling to hope of catching the Cougars (16-1, 9-0 in league) in the league standings.
No. 7 Valor stayed in the hunt for the conference crown with a 43-42 road victory at No. 5 Golden. The chances of the Demons successfully defending their league title from last year might have been extinguished.
“That was a great hard-fought game by both teams,” Valor coach Jessika Caldwell said. “Golden is super talented with some incredible players. I’m really proud of our kids. They dug their heels in and made some big shots and got some big stops.”
The Eagles (15-4, 8-2 in league) were able to sweep the season series against the Demons with the win. Golden (16-3, 7-3) suffered a 55-53 loss to Valor on the Eagles’ home court just more than three weeks ago in their first conference meeting.
Valor — 4A state champions in 2015 and 2016 — did pay a price in the victory over the Demons back on Jan. 10. Freshman sensation Kindyll Wetta suffered a season-ending knee injury. Wetta was averaging 13.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5 assists and 4.8 steal per game through her first dozen games of her prep basketball career.
“We have four incredible seniors in the program,” Caldwell said of her team that is 5-2 since the loss of Wetta. “They said we are going to put our heads down and continue to play.”
Valor’s ability to shoot the 3-pointer successfully and take care of the ball in the closing minutes were key. Junior Sara Nealy was a perfect 3-for-3 from long distance for the Eagles on her way to a team-high 13 points.
“My teammates executed the plays well,” said Nealy, who had a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left in the third quarter that gave the Eagles the lead for good. “That’s the only reason why I got those open shots.”
Golden was led by senior Makena Prey. The 6-foot senior had 20 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.
Prey hit a 3-pointer with under a second to play to cut Valor's lead to 43-42, but the Demons ran out of time to complete their fourth-quarter comeback attempt.
“It really makes us come back and focus on what we are missing,” Prey said. “We aren’t moving as well on offense as we could be and our help defense isn’t where it should be. We are going to bring those to our next practice to get ready for our next big game.”
Golden and Valor both get another shot against Evergreen. The Cougars took down the Demons and Eagles in their first league meetings to grab the 2-game cushion. Evergreen hosts Valor on Feb. 13 and Golden on Feb. 15.
“Evergreen is obviously going to be a really big game, but we’ve got to focus on one game at a time,” Nealy said. “We’ve got to prepare well for D’Evelyn next week.”
The Jaguars (12-6, 5-4) beat Valor 59-52 back on Jan. 12.
Valor hosts D’Evelyn and Wheat Ridge next week. Golden is on the road next week against Standley Lake and Littleton.