DOLORES – On a night in which quality scoring opportunities were in short supply and shots refused to fall, the Dolores High School girls basketball team relied on tough defense to defeat Ridgway High School, 29-23.
Among the central storylines from the contest in Dolores on Tuesday was the willingness of both teams to bring a physical brand of basketball to the court as players on both sides consistently jostled for rebounds and committed hard fouls.
Also factoring heavily into the game’s final outcome was sharp shooting of Dolores guard McKenzie Howerton. The senior drilled two 3-point field goals and scored a game-high 10 points.
“Our defense is what really gave us this win tonight,” Howerton said. “Our offense, we weren’t running it the way we could. We just had to push through the (aggressiveness) and play our own game and stay true to our team.”
While the first half lacked highlights, second-quarter buckets by Howerton, Allie Kibel and Brenn Jeter allowed Dolores to expand its lead to 12-5 heading into halftime.
Coming out of the locker room with renewed focus on the offensive end, the Lady Bears eventually expanded their lead to 20-12 after Howerton drained a 3-pointer off a well-designed inbounds play that allowed her to pop open in the right corner.
Less than 2 minutes later, Kibel drained a long jump shot from the right wing on an identical inbounds play that allowed her to pop free for a wide-open shot.
“We have this one play where we try to get it to the corner and get an open shot,” Howerton said. “(That play) was just really effective tonight.”
Ahead 22-15 heading into the fourth quarter, Dolores ramped up its man-to-man defense throughout the final 8 minutes and held Ridgway to just 8 points. Several Lady Bears also forced turnovers.
“Defense won this game for us tonight,” Dolores head coach Tiffany Hill said. “I think the girls hustled. They didn’t get lost in the physicality of the game and they kept their composure.”
In addition to 10 points from Howerton, the Lady Bears received 7 points from Kibel, 3 points from Akira Edwards, 2 from Sam Castillo and Erin Brown and 1 from Ashuanee Begay.
Ridgway was led in scoring by Ashley Medina, who scored 9 points. Sara Messer drained two 3-point field goals and scored 7 total points for the Demons.
With its record now at 3-5 on the season, Dolores will prepare for a difficult road matchup against San Juan Basin League powerhouse Ignacio on Friday.
“We have to communicate better,” Howerton said looking toward upcoming games. “We need to make sure that our passes are good and we need to make sure our players are looking out for each other.”