NORWOOD and OURAY – “I give our kids a ton of credit,” said Norwood girls basketball coach Greg King, after the Lady Mavericks lost in the semi-finals at the state tournament last weekend to eventual champion Simla, 36-28. “They played about as hard as anybody could play. In the locker room nobody had anything left.”
Norwood’s girls, who finished the regular season 21-1, were not a surprise to make it to state. They went into the 1A tournament seeded fifth and won their first game in convincing fashion, 41-32 over No. 4 Pawnee (from Grover, Colo., near the Wyo. border).
That the Ouray’s boys battled through districts and regionals to qualify for a trip to the Front Range for a second year in a row was a bit of a surprise, admitted their coach, Jim Blennis. “We surprised a lot of teams that we played.”
The Trojans went into the tournament ranked eighth among 1A boys with a regular-season record of 16-6. That meant they played top seed Caliche in the first round. Caliche (on the northeastern plains off Interstate 76) was the two-time defending state champion, and they showed why as they handed Ouray a tough 73-49 loss. “They had a bunch of kids, and they threw ’em at us,” said Blennis. “They had two 6’5” kids, and they hurt us: They controlled the boards, and when they missed, they had a lot of put-backs.” Caliche would go on to its third straight state title with romps over No. 4 Walsh in the semis and No. 7 Springfield in the final.
Ouray next played No. 5 Shining Mountain (Boulder) in the consolation elimination round. In a seesaw game with numerous lead changes, Ouray senior point guard Chris Cramp led all scorers with 29 points. His last two free throws put Ouray ahead 48-45. But Shining Mountain came back with two close-range buckets, the last with just seconds to play. Cramp put up a 35-footer at the buzzer that was on line, but came up short, and Ouray went home on the losing end, 49-48.
“That was a tough one to take,” said Blennis afterward. “We had been able to pull those kinds of games out through districts and regionals. . . We just played hard all year. We outplayed everybody, played hard for four quarters. They were a great group of kids to work with.”
Greg King’s Lady Mavericks next played No. 1 seed Simla in the tournament semi-finals. Simla (on the plains between Colorado Springs and Limon) was undefeated, 25-0, and rolling toward the championship. “I think we played ‘em as tough as anyone,” King said. “We took them out of their offense, prevented them from doing what they wanted to do. It was a defensive struggle for both teams.” Norwood led at the half, 20-19. But Simla’s defensive pressure held the Mavericks to just eight second-half points, and the Lions pulled away.
The next day Norwood played Kim High School (east of Trinidad near the New Mexico-Oklahoma border) in the third-place game, but lost by 12, 47-35. “We just didn’t have any gas left in the tank,” King said. But, he continued, “They just played their tails off all year. We were an eye-opener to those teams on the East Slope. We proved to them we can play [basketball] on this side of the hill. And we’re going to be a good team for years to come.”
Norwood loses only senior Emily Winner to graduation. (Winner was named first team all-conference in the San Juan League.) Returning starters include leading scorer Lindsey Stindt, a junior, and junior Katelyn Hardman, along with sophomore Harlie Williams.
It may be a different story in Ouray next season. “Definitely next year is rebuilding,” said coach Blennis. His squad loses four of its five starters in leading scorer Cramp plus seniors Jeffrey Rummell, Kaleb Sackman and Eli Holmes. Only junior Steve Duce will return. But he will bring two years of state championships experience with him.