DENVER — A balanced scoring effort and solid team defense led Mullen’s girls basketball team to an important road victory Monday night.
“We are very glad to get out of here with a win. You don’t come in to this gym and win very often,” Mullen coach Tyler Cline said after the Mustangs’ 42-38 victory on the road. “We knew we were going to be rusty. We knew they would be rusty. I thought our girls did an excellent job in executing the game plan.”
Mullen’s game plan against D’Evelyn, ranked No. 8 in the current Class 4A CHSAANow.com poll, was to contest every shot the Jaguars put up and rebound. The Mustangs (6-3 overall) took a 9-0 lead in the first quarter and didn’t allow D’Evelyn to score until there was 1:40 left in the first quarter.
D’Evelyn (4-4) never led, but did close Mullen’s lead to 37-34 with 2:13 left in the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer from junior Aubrey Sotolongo. However, the Mustangs held on thanks to a key late field goal by freshman Sydney Congdon with a minute to go and three made free throws in the final seconds.
“This is huge. Huge momentum,” said Mullen senior Emily Dryden, who along with freshman Jaden Congdon led the Mustangs with nine points each. “We really needed this win.”
The Congdon twins (Sydney and Jaden) combined for 16 points. Sydney also had the task of trying to contain D’Evelyn senior Morgan Ducklow on the defensive end.
“Sydney and Jaden bring us so much,” Cline said. “They are freshmen and there are times they play like freshmen. I’ve just preached if you just play defense a lot of that stuff won’t matter. They’ve bought in.”
Ducklow had a game-high 21 points in the loss for the Jaguars. Her 3-pointer in the final seconds cut Mullen’s lead to 41-38, but junior Ryleigh Akridge made one of two free throws with under a second to play to seal the win.
“First game back is hard,” Ducklow said of the tough shooting night for the Jaguars. “We’ve just got to keep shooting and they will fall for us eventually.”
Sotolongo finished with nine points for D’Evelyn. The rest of the Jaguars combined for just eight points. D’Evelyn also struggled from the free-throw line. The Jaguars were just 5-of-13.
“We’ve got to work on getting a better balance,” D’Evelyn coach Chris Olson said. “We are going to shoot our 3-pointers, but we need to get lane touches and get some fouls called. We get timid sometimes.”
Mullen finished 14-of-21 from the charity stripe, including 13-of-16 in the second half.
“A win like this against a D’Evelyn team that will probably finish first or second in their league is huge for us,” Cline said.
Mullen was coming off a respectable showing at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix just before the winter break. The Mustangs went 2-2 during the out-of-state tournament.
The Mustangs begin their Centennial League schedule this week with a pair of home games against Overland (Wednesday) and Arapahoe (Friday). Both games are scheduled to tipoff at 7 p.m.
D’Evelyn hadn’t played for 22 days. The Jaguars’ last game was a loss to 4A’s No. 3-ranked Holy Family in the Jungle Jam Holiday Tournament championship game Dec. 13.
“We just talked about the second season coming up and being good in our league,” Olson said. “That’s why you play a tough non-league so you can be good in your league and we have a tough league.”
The 4A Jeffco League season starts up for D’Evelyn on Wednesday. The Jaguars travel to face Arvada for a 7 p.m. tipoff. D’Evelyn is attempting to win its fourth straight conference title.
“I can’t wait,” Ducklow said. “I hope to win league again and keep that streak going.”