From the moment that she stepped onto the court for her team’s game against Dolores High School on Jan. 21, Dove Creek High School shooting guard Grace Hatfield took the reins of her team’s offense and attacked the basket.
With an array of deft drives to the hoop, pull-up jumpers in transition and a few 3-pointers, the junior dominated all facets of the game and scored 26 points as the Lady Bulldogs walloped the Lady Bears 57-27, and improved their record to 8-3 on the season.
“(Hatfield) was so smooth and some of her moves in there were amazing,” Dove Creek head coach Julie Kibel said. “She had assists, she had steals, and she cracked a couple of 3’s at good times when we needed to get our lead back.”
While Hatfield’s stellar performance served as one of the central storylines in the lopsided contest, Dove Creek’s ability to push the ball up the court and score in transition factored heavily in the team’s win.
Among the Lady Bulldogs especially effective racing the ball up court were junior Kobie Beanland, who dished out numerous assists, and freshman Rylee Hickman, who ran the floor flawlessly and aggressively and attacked the basket en route to 11 points.
“I call them the little blue swarm,” Kibel said. “Whenever everybody is after loose balls and hustling, I love that. Kobie Beanland was key up front pushing the ball. We would get a steal and we would be out on our fast break.”
Although the inability to limit its turnovers and control Dove Creek’s fast break ultimately doomed Dolores, the Lady Bears enjoyed some positive moments thanks to the stellar play of sophomore Erin Brown, who scored a team-high nine points.
Dolores also enjoyed plenty of positive moments during the opening quarter in which players went toe-to-toe with Dove Creek and delivered a 6-0 run midway through the quarter after two fast-break layups by junior Allie Kibel and a turnaround jumper by Brown.
Hatfield’s offensive onslaught proved too much for Dolores to overcome, however, as the Dove Creek junior scored six points during the opening quarter that ended with her team leading 18-10, and five more points in the second quarter, which ended with her team ahead 27-14.
“(Setting the tone early) is so important,” Hatfield said. “Right before we come out, we literally talk about pressing the ball. Our No. 1 thing is to make a statement, especially in the first minute.”
Leading by 13 points to begin the second half, Dove Creek’s offense briefly faltered as the Dolores defense stepped up and the Lady Bears began the quarter on a 6-3 run that was highlighted by two jumpers from Brown.
Any thoughts of a Lady Bears’ comeback were quickly extinguished, however, as Dove Creek senior Cassie Gatlin took control of the paint, grabbed multiple offensive and defensive rebounds and scored seven of her 15 total points in the second half to help her team pull away.
Now owners of a 3-1 record in the San Juan Basin League, Dove Creek will look toward a road matchup against Telluride on Jan. 24.
Dolores, which is currently 3-8 overall and 1-4 in the San Juan Basin League, will play its next game at home against Mancos on Jan. 28.
“(Beating Dolores) was a really big win,” Hickman said. “(Dolores) is almost like our rivals, and coming out and beating them really feels good.”