No. 2 St. Mary's girls basketball rides strong third quarter defense to win over No. 10 Manitou Springs

Manitou Springs St. Mary's girls basketball

(Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)

COLORADO SPRINGS — Olivia Florek's 3-point attempt was off to the side. St. Mary's was able to corral the rebound and with the Manitou Springs players out of position, she got another crack at it.

Her second attempt was good. This one came at the end of the third quarter. It gave No. 2 St. Mary's momentum and a 10-point lead.

They kept the momentum and only increased the lead as the Pirates beat the No. 10-ranked Mustangs 59-41 in a battle of two Class 3A top-10 teams.

"It feels good," St. Mary's coach Mike Burkett said. "They're a good team and Shelby (Megyeri) makes them great. It's hard to defend them."

Megyeri scored a game-high 16 points and Calleen Sienknecht added 12, but it just turned out not to be enough.

The Pirates (8-0 overall, 3-0 Tri-Peaks) opted to try and take away the threat from behind the arc. They primarily sat in a 2-3 zone with the guards extended out to deny the shooters an open look. Sienknecht and Megyeri we were able to combine for five triples on the night, it was scoring from the inside that proved the most difficult.

"We needed to be stronger in the post to get the ball movement going," Megyeri said. "If the post was hitting down low, we'd be able to spread (that zone) out more."

Manitou Springs St. Mary's girls basketball

(Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)

The third quarter turned out to be the major turning point as Manitou made only one field goal and scored just five points.

And while the Mustangs' (4-5, 1-1) scoring effort was concentrated, the Pirates were able to spread theirs out more.

Florek's 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter was one of only two field goals she made on the night, yet she led her team with 13 point, eight of which came from the charity stripe.

Seneca Hackley had 12 and Josephine Howery added 10. Natalie Godec and Makenna Bodette just missed out on double-digits, coming away with eight points apiece.

"We just play as a team and we're not selfish," Florek said. "We just pass the ball around and we really don't care who scores or who looks the best. We just want to win and play as a team."

It's the second-straight Friday that the Pirates' leading scorer got the majority of her points at the free throw line. Howery scored 15 of her 19 points in last week's win over Lamar off free throws.

But that's the way of the world for the Pirates right now. Whether it's off free throws or 3-pointers and whether it's Florek's 13 on Friday or Bodette's 28 in a win over Pueblo East earlier this week, they are going to get the points needed to add to the win column.

Unlike the last few seasons, Manitou has been learning to deal with early losses. Their five defeats this season nearly match their losses for the last two years combined. But they are still competing with top-ranked teams.

"I'd much rather play teams of this caliber every time," coach Ed Longfield said. "We've had Sterling, we've had Pagosa, Denver Lutheran and (St. Mary's) is a really good team. It's absolutely better for us to play this level of competition."

But now, all indications are that the Tri-Peaks title goes through St. Mary's. With wins over Lamar and Manitou Springs, the Pirates feel they have all the momentum at this point.

"I think that it shows how improved we are from last year and throughout the season," Florek said. "We're a force to be reckoned with."