LAKEWOOD — Green Mountain’s girls basketball team is headed to the Sweet 16 of the Class 4A state tournament.
It was a bit of a struggle at times in the final quarter Friday night against Pueblo County, but in the end the Rams extended their winning streak to 11 games while taking a 48-46 victory.
“Our girls are on a mission right now,” Green Mountain coach Darren Pitzner said. “It’s a really good family right now. The coaches are really working hard. I’m proud of all the girls.”
The second-round playoff win sets up No. 10-seeded Green Mountain (18-6 record) on the road against No. 7 Greeley Central (23-1). The Wildcats took a 19-point win over Roosevelt on Friday night to increase their winning streak to 18 games.
The Rams will need to find a way to contain Greeley Central senior Naomi Hidalgo who is nearly averaging a double-double in points and rebounds this season.
Green Mountain looked to be in good shape against Pueblo County with under seven minutes to play on the snowy Friday night when junior Kasey Klocek scored back-to-back buckets to push the Rams’ lead to 40-27.
“She (Klocek) gave us a nice spark that we needed,” Pitzner said of the junior’s two buckets early in the fourth quarter that extended the Rams to their biggest lead — 13 points — of the night. “We know how hard Pueblo kids work and they are really well-coached. They never give up and got hot in the end.”
Pueblo County (14-11) drained five 3-pointers in the final seven minutes to cut the Rams’ lead down to a single point in the final seconds. Junior Sloan Garcia and senior Hayle Herrera both hit a pair of 3-pointers to get the Hornets in position to grab a lead after trailing for most of the game. Herrera finished with a team-high 13 points.
However, Green Mountain never gave up the lead by making just enough free throws — 6 of 15 — in the final quarter to hang on.
It was the second meeting of the season between the Hornets and Rams. Green Mountain hung on for a 43-39 victory over Pueblo County during a holiday tournament Dec. 15.
“Even thou it got close I think we were smart in the last five minutes,” Pitzner said. “We took the right shots and made just enough free throws.”
Junior Riley Shoemaker had a key breakaway layup with just under two minutes to play and senior Savannah Hapke made a pair of free throws with 1:25 left to help secure the win.
Sophomore Courtney Hank nearly scored half of the Rams’ points. Hank was unstoppable in the first half pouring in 15 of her game-high 22 points.
“It was a hard game inside,” Hank said. “(Pueblo County junior Lauren Avila) is a really good post player. Our main goal was to D up on her and get out on their shooters.”
Avila was tagged with a pair of early fouls in the opening quarter that allowed Hank to really establish herself as a force in the paint. Avila was held to five points before fouling out in the final minutes.
“She (Hank) is a really tough player and has been doing a lot of extra work,” Pitzner said. “She has been working on her footwork and it’s paying off. The more teams key on her we’ll have other kids step up.”
Green Mountain in riding a nice wave of momentum that includes a victory last week against two-time defending 4A state champion Evergreen.