It’s not often a basketball team can score only two points in a quarter and still win the game.
But that was the case for the ThunderRidge girls Dec. 7 in a 49-40 win over Rock Canyon as the two schools played in the championship game of the ThunderRidge/Rock Canyon season-opening basketball tournament.
ThunderRidge opened a 33-23 lead at intermission and made all six of its 3-point baskets in the first half, including a buzzer beater by Brittany Birdsey to end the opening half.
The Grizzlies managed just two points as the teams exchanged offense for defense in the third quarter. However, Rock Canyon scored just five points to just trim ThunderRidge’s lead to seven points.
A 7-0 run to begin the final quarter pushed ThunderRidge ahead by 14 points and wrapped up the title in the tournament that featured four teams ranked in the Top 10 of the Class 5A CHSAANow preseason rankings.
“We’ve been working very hard on the offensive piece, executing that and some of those kinds of things against different defenses, and I thought our kids in the first half did a good job,” said ThunderRidge coach Paula Krueger. “We shot really well from the 3-point line.”
Taylor Rusk had 11 points to lead the Grizzlies against the Jaguars. The 5-foot-10 sophomore scored 41 points in the three tournament games.
ThunderRidge, ranked eighth in the opening poll, cruised to a lopsided victory over Arvada West, 57-4, and whipped No. 3 Arapahoe 46-29 before beating No. 5 Rock Canyon in the title game.
“I have to give my kids tons and tons of credit because in three games the most points they have given up is 40,” added Krueger. “That’s fantastic. Rock Canyon is a very good basketball team that we beat.”
ThunderRidge had 37 steals in the three games led by sophomore Madison Ward, who was credited with 12 of the thefts.
Rock Canyon opened the tournament by setting a school scoring record in a 92-26 conquest of Rangeview and followed with a 50-41 win over Ralston Valley, before losing to Continental League rival ThunderRidge in the title game.
Senior forward Lexy Thorderson scored 18 points against ThunderRidge, finishing with 55 points in the tournament.
“It was a learning game for us,” said Rock Canyon coach Becky Mudd. “We definitely played great defense in the third quarter. We weren’t as disciplined as we needed to be offensively to run things to get good looks. We were trying to do it all at once. We wanted to make up all the points all at once instead of chipping away at it and running our stuff.
“I thought that was the difference in the first quarter. They were disciplined and running their stuff and we weren’t. We made up for it by playing good defense in the second half. We just didn’t get the offense going. It’s great to play good teams and especially to play ThunderRidge. It’s a tournament and you want to win but we’re looking forward to playing them again during the regular season.”
Arapahoe finished fourth in the tournament. The Warriors whipped Doherty 66-28 in the first game but lost to Arapahoe and then turnovers and poor shooting were costly in a 42-28 setback to Ralston Valley in the third-place game.
No. 9 Cherry Creek took fifth, losing its first game 61-57 in overtime to Ralston Valley but responded with 52-32 triumph over Rangeview and a 68-18 romp over Arvada West. Molly Rohrer, a 6-foot-1 junior, led the Bruins with 65 points in the three games.
“It was a good tournament,” said Bruins coach Chris Curneen. “They were a lot of good teams in it. It was good for us because we’re young. We have four freshmen on the varsity and it’s always good to get them a little experience without the pressure. They’ll get enough pressure once the regular season begins.”
In other action including South Metro top 10 teams, No. 2 Highlands Ranch went 3-1 in the Sweet 16 Invitational in La Jolla, Calif. after a 62-40 season-opening win over Palmer on Dec. 2.