CANON CITY — There can be some unintended consequences when it comes to earning a bye in the first round of the Class 4A girls state basketball tournament. While Canon City was resting preparing for their first game of the 2020 postseason, Evergreen was finding its groove.
It took the Tigers a little bit of time to get going, but once they did, they came away with in impressive 60-43 win over the Cougars.
Canon City now advances to the Sweet 16 where top-seeded Sand Creek awaits. That advancement, however, wasn't as easy as it may have seemed, especially early. There's a weight that comes off the team's shoulders when it sees it has a first-round bye, but as seen after Evergreen led 15-14 after the first quarter it comes with entirely new kind of pressure.
"It's definitely a different weight that goes on," Tigers coach Dan Heath said. "(Evergreen) already played a game this week so they had their jitters out of the way. I knew that was going to factor in tonight and you could see that early."
Once the Tigers (19-4 overall) settled, it wasn't hard to see why they had earned one of the top 16 seeds in the state. Jerika Moore scored nine of her game-high 19 points in the second quarter.
As Canon City's full-court press defense found a way to frustrate the Cougars (17-8) it started capitalizing on turnovers. Mody Ley's lone basket of the second quarter gave the Tigers a 23-21 lead. They used that momentum to take a 30-24 lead into halftime.
"Our press set the tone," Moore said. "We went in knowing they couldn't handle pressure very well. As soon as we started upsetting them, it pushed us to keep going."
The Cougars were limited offensively in the second and third quarters, making just five combined field goals in that span. Jameson Mott led their effort with 17 points, but the team struggled to keep pace as Canon City built a 43-27 lead.
It wasn't until the fourth quarter that Evergreen started closing the gap. They cut the Tigers lead to 48-40 midway through the final quarter. But two key possession ended with five points from Kate Tedquist and Canon City started to pull away. She was good from the free throw line as well, making four of five and finishing with eight points overall.
"Free throws can decide the outcome of a game," Tedquist said. "I wanted to make them for my team."
Withstanding Evergreen's comeback attempt was a needed test for the Tigers as they head into the next round and a trip to Sand Creek. They fell early in the season to Falcon, a team that the Scorpions beat twice this year, but head into the game with a lot of confidence after a big win.
"It gives us the confidence that we need," Moore said. "But we had that confidence even before this."
The Scorpions and Tigers will play at Sand Creek on Tuesday.