HIGHLANDS RANCH – Mountain Vista’s girls didn’t shoot the ball particularly well in Tuesday night’s opening round game of the Class 5A state playoffs.
But, it didn’t matter.
The Golden Eagles played good defense, forced turnovers and made basket after basket off their transition game in rolling to a 63-34 victory over George Washington in the Mountain Vista gym.
“We were serious about playing good man-to-man defense, pushing the pace, getting the ball up the court and got some easy opportunities.” Mountain Vista coach Mike Willahan said.
“Defense wins championships. You can’t shoot well every night. But you can rebound, play defense and take care of the basketball every single night and those are out three top goals.”
Mountain Vista made 26 of 70 field goal attempts (37 percent) and a majority of the Golden Eagles’ baskets were layups off the transition game.
The Golden Eagles had 23 steals and forced the Patriots to commit 28 turnovers. Mountain Vista also pulled down 41 rebounds as George Washington shot just 22 percent from the field.
“The turnovers allowed them to get out in transition and didn’t allow us to really set our defense,” said Patriots coach Tommie Beal “The transition layups and 3-pointers allowed them to have success.”
Freshman guard Chelsea Pearson paced Mountain Vista with 16 points and she had three of the Golden Eagles’ six 3-point baskets.
Karlee Schwartzkopf, one of only two seniors on the team, had 11 points for Mountain Vista while Jordan Graff and Kylie Klein each added 10 points.
Mikalah Hughes, a 6-foot-2 junior forward, and 6-0 freshman Molly McCabe grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
“We played better as a team,” Schwartzkopf said. “The last couple games we were kind of selfish but we really passed the ball more as a team.
“We’re in the toughest conference (Continental League) so sometimes it’s nice to have an easy game to show we’re a pretty good team. I kind of enjoyed it.”
Mountain Vista, 16-8, advances to the second round and will meet Palmer, 21-2, Friday night in Colorado Springs. The Terrors are seeded second in the Sharon Welch region of the state playoff bracket.
George Washington, paced by Tyla Wilder’s 16 points, finished the season with a 15-9 record.
“Now we have to get ready for No. 2 Palmer,” said Willahan. “They are going to be tough and physical and rebound like animals. If we do our thing, shoot the ball well, we can play with anybody.
”We have to make some shots and take care of the basketball and handle their physicality. The Continental League has prepared us for this game. We’ve played good opponents in Highlands Ranch, Regis, ThunderRidge, Rock Canyon and Chaparral. We feel like we’re ready. If we play our game the way we can, we can go in there and maybe scare Palmer a little bit.”