This year’s version of the Eads Lady Eagles was the smallest team in numbers, with just 8 total players, Eads has had in some time. They were also small in stature, as well as no was over 5’ 8” but everyone learned how to play much larger than they were. Battling through an extremely difficult schedule and playing in the Hi-Plains League where every single team qualified for the regional tournament, made the Eagles battle worn and able to survive games they had no business being in. They were young, with just two seniors and three freshmen who, late in the season, did the bulk of the scoring.
Eads qualified for the regional tournament with a fourth place finish in the District 2 tournament to Granada and using their RPI ranking entered the regionals as a #14 team playing in the Briggsdale region. They would battle their way to a win over #18 Nucla (11-10) on Friday night, 42-35, but was pretty much blown out of the gym against a very athletic Briggsdale group, 68-31, on Saturday. With the win, Briggsdale qualified for this week’s 1A Girls State Basketball Tournament in Greeley. Eads’ loss ended their season with a 12-12 overall record.
Eads head coach Trey Eder was overall philosophical on what he saw at the regional tournament in Briggsdale, “Going into regionals I knew we were in a tough region with Briggsdale. But we had to worry about the first game against Nucla in order to get to Briggsdale.”
Eads used a strong second quarter nearly doubling their scoring over Nucla to gain the advantage they needed to win the game, 42-35. Of the Nucla game Eder said, “With Nucla we could see a little film, but you just never know from film, and a team we have never faced before and with a young team like we have, what the pressure of playoffs can do. I felt going in we had a good chance to beat Nucla if we played well and executed. This proved to be true with a 7-point win. I felt we had multiple opportunities to break this game open in the first half. We would build a double-digit lead and then make some key turnovers and let them back in. But our kids battled and never gave up. And, I think, our tough season schedule and close games proved to be key and those experiences helped us to stay focused to the end and get a major win to move on to the regional championship against Briggsdale.”
The three Eagle freshmen led the way for Eads against Nucla. Tailee Weeks-Johnson put in 17 points, including two triples. Lexi Shotton added 8 points, Kara Wilson had 7 points, including a long ball, and Madison McDowell chipped in 5 points, including a triple, as well.
Briggsdale, however, proved to be the real deal as they jumped out on a nearly helpless Eagles crew using a brutal half court trapping defense that very rarely allowed Eads to breath. They would score 22 in the first and 24 in the second, most coming off transition, to be up 46-18 at the intermission. In the second period, Weeks-Johnson came alive and scored 8 to lead her team with 13 in that period.
Eder was impressed with the Briggsdale group, “I think we all knew going in that we were going to have to play a near perfect game in order to pull an upset. We started the game slow and with turnovers and found a six-point deficit just seconds into the game. They are long and athletic, and we could not overcome that and their half court pressure. They are a team that will make you pay for mistakes. Briggsdale opened our eyes as to what it takes to make that next level of play as they are probably the best team we have faced all year.”
Briggsdales’ Jenna Krise put on a clinic leading all players with 29 points.
For Eads it was two freshmen again leading the way with Weeks-Johnson scoring 11 points behind three triples. Wilson added 7 points using one long ball.
Eads will lose two seniors off the team. They include Samantha Courkamp, who has been on the varsity for four years and did a great job taking whatever role asked of her; and Lisi Buller who moved to Eads starting her junior year. Unfortunately, a severe knee injury sidelined her for the entire season a year ago and she then fought her way through pain this year to assist Eads in putting together a season that will be the foundation of what appears to be strong for a number of years to come.
Eder was happy with the season as it was much more successful than a year ago, “For the season I feel like the girls showed lot of determination and heart from the beginning and were all on the same page to get to regionals. The season had its ups and downs but when you have key players as young as we do you are going to experience that along the way. We made changes to lineup here and there to try and find the best combinations. Improving along the way was the goal and I feel we did that. To finish this season at .500 was a big accomplishment for this team considering we only won 4 games last year. The success we had down the stretch of the season and our difficult schedule will pay off in the future with this young group of girls and they will be hungry and ready to lead the charge next year and make the big dance.”