ARVADA — The only thing slowing down Ralston Valley senior Shelby Nichols on Tuesday night was a bit of foul trouble.
“Stupid fouls. Stupid aggressive fouls. Being dumb, but I’ll figure it out,” said Nichols about fouling out with 5:07 left in the fourth quarter, but not before pouring in a game-high 14 points. “I’ve been struggling with that the last few games.”
Nichols got the Mustangs — No. 10 in the latest CHSAANow.com Class 5A girls basketball rankings — off to a hot start going 3-for-3 from 3-point range in the first quarter to quickly push Ralston Valley out to an 18-5 lead over Dakota Ridge on the Mustangs’ home court. Ralston Valley eventually went on to win 62-32 in the non-league game against its 5A Jeffco League rival.
“I was just getting some great passes from the teammates. I put them up and hit them, somehow. I don’t know how that happened,” Nichols said with a smile. “We were getting good ball movement which we haven’t been lately.”
Foul trouble limited Nichols’s playing time on the court. She buried her fourth and final 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter to extend the Mustangs’ lead to 50-18, but fouled out in the fourth quarter.
“She (Nichols) had a great game and she barely played,” Dakota Ridge coach Diane Thompson said after the Eagles’ five-game winning streak came to an end.
Ralston Valley (8-4 record) got some balanced scoring with freshman Saya Sabus (nine points) and junior Ellie Schweiker (eight points) contributing. The Mustangs’ bench was impressive. Juniors Maddie Young had eight points and fellow junior Emma Young nearly had a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds.
“My bench played well tonight,” Ralston Valley coach Jeff Gomer said. “Maddie Young and Emma both came in and played well off the bench. That’s a good sign.”
The Mustangs’ leading scorer Sydney Bevington had just four points, but contributed in other ways with 18 rebounds and six assists. Ralston Valley picked up its third straight win since the end of the winter break and it was the first time scoring 60-plus points in 2019.
“We have been struggling,” Nichols said of the Mustangs’ offense. “I think this is the turning point. We’ve been relying on our defense quite a bit lately. If we can put a solid defense on one end and solid offense on the other we’ll be great.”
Ralston Valley finishes the week with an intriguing showdown against 4A’s No. 5 ranked Evergreen. The two-time defending 4A state champions will host the Mustangs at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11.
“The biggest thing I liked tonight is we made progress tonight,” Gomer said.
The Eagles (7-5) were led by junior Emily Doolittle scoring 11 points. Doolittle went 9-for-13 from the free-throw line. Dakota Ridge was held to just seven made field goals in the loss.
“We couldn’t come close to buying a bucket,” Thompson said. “We actually had really good looks, open looks that we normally knockdown.”
Dakota Ridge had a good rivalry match-up against rival Columbine on Friday night. The Eagles and Rebels have a 5:30 p.m. tipoff at Columbine High School in what will be a non-league game.
“We’ve got Columbine on Friday,” Thompson said. “Good teams look back and great teams look forward. We’ve just got to move forward.”