MANITOU SPRINGS — Lutheran had built a 10-2 lead over Manitou Springs in the opening minutes of Tuesday's clash between the Class 3A top 10 teams.
But the Mustangs were able to battle back and eventually take the lead at the end of the quarter. It was pretty much the theme of the night as the Mustangs were able to come away with a 52-42 win in their biggest test of the season.
"I think this is a big win," Manitou coach Jon Asp said. "Just to be able to come back like that showed a lot of grit and perseverance and I think we can take that into the second half of this season."
Asp said that before the game, he emphasized to his girls that the biggest thing that could hurt them was allowing too many 3-pointers. That proved to be the case as Lutheran (5-3 overall) was able to snag a 30-24 halftime lead thanks to senior Morgan Barone who buried four triples in the first half.
Taylor Stuckey added three 3-pointers of her own and the Lions were inflicting damage in the one way the Mustangs were hoping to avoid.
Knowing that a lot was at stake with this game, Asp and the Mustangs (7-0) had to do a better job of containing the perimeter shooting in the second half.
"I didn't do anything different (in the second half)," Asp said. "It was the girls that shifted things. Nothing (in the game plan) changed. I just had to reiterate what our goal was and that if we could do some things differently, we could win the game."
It also helped that junior standout Shelby Megyeri upped her offensive performance in the second half. The Mustangs began forcing turnovers and getting the ball out to her in transition, which helped alleviate her struggles from behind the arc.
"When we start playing good defensive, it really brings things together for us," Megyeri said. "We're dangerous when we get our defense going and get out on the fast break."
Megyeri finished with 14 points on the night and only knocked down one 3-pointer, but it came at a crucial moment and gave the Mustangs a 46-42 lead. Senior Gala Jensen led all scorers with 18 points.
The Lions couldn't maintain their offensive pace from the first half and totaled only 12 points in the final 16 minutes of regulation.
"They obviously deserve credit for finishing that second half," Lions coach Mark Duitsman said. "They did everything good teams do down the stretch. I can't help but feel like a lot of things that went against us were self-inflicted."
But even with the loss, Duitsman feels playing a high-level opponent will only pay dividends for his team going forward.
"No matter what, it's a win-win for us," he said. "We're in the business of getting better. No one is where they want to be right now, the Manitou Mustangs included."
But a win over a fellow top-10 team has given the Mustangs a jolt of confidence. They started the season as the CHSAANow.com No. 1 team in 3A, but lost that top spot despite not losing any games.
"It shows that regardless of the talent level, we can compete," Megyeri said. "Whoever in 3A, I mean, we're ranked No. 3 and I think we can play with anyone if we play as a team."