COLORADO SPRINGS — After using a rotation of six players and securing a double-digit win over a top-three team, Colorado Springs Christian coach Mark Engesser walked away happy, but not satified.
His Class 3A No. 2 CSCS Lions had just come away with a 52-40 win over No. 3 Lutheran. He was missing players for various reasons. One was sick, one was out of town and another was at volleyball.
And although he was happy with the win, he saw some areas where his team is going to have improve if it wants to make a championship run in late March.
“We have to be better on defense," he said. "(Giving up) 40 points is too much. When you get into state you have to hold teams in the 20’s or 30’s if you want to win. Offensively, we missed some layups. If you get some layups, you have to finish. One missed layup a game is what you can have max and we had too many tonight.”
The good news was that Megan Engesser and Rachel Ingram were in uniform. As will be the norm in the 2018-19 season, as long as those two are in the lineup, CSCS (2-0 overall) will have a shot.
Early on, however, it looked like Lutheran was going to be a tough order. CSCS fell behind early because of some forced shots and unforced turnovers. Lutheran (3-1) jumped out to a 7-2 with Kate Murphy scoring a basket down low and Sara Larson connecting on a 3-pointer.
“We felt the nerves in the beginning," Megan Engesser said. "But after that we just went out and played basketball. When you play good defense, the offensive side will come around.”
Once they started playing, the CSCS looked the part of the dominant program they have been the last few seasons. Engesser knocked down two triples in the first quarter and Ingram was more successful in attacking the basket. The duo combined for 15 of the 19 points that CSCS scored in the first quarter.
Engesser scored all six points for CSCS in the second half as the team went into the locker room at halftime holding on to a 25-16 lead.
As CSCS started scoring more baskets, the girls immediately jumped into a full-court press and settled back into a 2-3 zone. Running through the offensive sets, Lutheran was able to fire off a lot of 3-point shots, but the attempts just couldn't finder their way into the net.
“To be honest, those are the shots we are expecting to get as a team," Lutheran coach Mark Duitsman said. "We shoot a lot of threes. Anyone who scouts us knows we shoot a lot of threes. Tonight, they weren’t falling, obviously. Credit to their defense with the anticipation of those passes and their close outs. I’m giving them credit, but I’m also walking away from tonight feeling like we got a lot of looks that we’re okay with.”
Early in the third quarter, Lutheran closed the gap to five points, but Ingram and Engesser kept answering with baskets of their own. Engesser finished with a game-high 28 points. Ingram scored 13.
Stephanie Schultz led Lutheran with 11 points and was one of four players from her team to knock down a 3-pointer in the second half. Facing one of the top teams in the state, seeing several players knock down long range shots in the second half was not a welcome sight for Mark Engesser.
“They banked a three, they made another three that we should’ve been on," he said. "I don’t know why we weren’t (contesting it). They called timeout and hit another three. Those threes in the fourth quarter kill you.”
But they didn't spell doom for CSCS. Engesser's team has finished as the 3A runner-up the last two years and he's hoping they can get back to the state title game this year. And while he's happy about Wednesday's win, he knows there is still work to be done.
“We have a long ways to go, but I’m happy,” he said.