It has been a heck of a year for the extremely young McClave Lady Cardinals who have played havoc through their schedule ending up with a perfect 23-0 at the eve of the Big Dance where they hope to bring home to Gold Ball. Starting 2 freshman, with another freshman coming immediately off the bench, and a sophomore the Cards are definitely the team to beat as they place their perfect season on the line.
In a strange turn of events when it comes to CHSAA’s unique way of seeding using RPI and other mathematical standards, the two top teams in the Hi-Plains League, McClave (23-0, #1) and Granada (19-3, #9) will face off against each other in the first game at the state tournament on Thursday, March 9 at 10:45 am.
McClave used their legendary defense to take care of both opponents at their regional tournament over the weekend. They first finished off a hapless South Baca group (#32, 8-12) by a score of 62-18. The young Cards allowed little daylight for the SB group as the defense was stifling.
Freshman Abrielle Gomez dropped four triples on top of South Baca on her way to a double-double performance where she poured in 27 points and stole the ball 10 times.
Junior McKayla Kiniston added a double-double as well with 11 points and 12 steals to go along with 6 rebounds.
Shooting guard sophomore Chloe Weber hit 6 points for the Cards.
The win over South Baca in the semifinals pitted McClave with another Hi-Plains team in the upstarts from Cheyenne Wells (#17, 7-13). McClave had beaten Cheyenne Wells badly in the regular season but in the regional championship on Saturday Cheyenne Wells got within 10 points early in the fourth quarter. A good timeout from Card coach Brianne Howe slowed the run that challenged McClave and when they came out on the court it was all McClave after that.
The Tigers rebounded well with McClave (29 boards to 25), but they suffered through 30 turnovers against the Cardinal defensive pressure, eventually ending their season with a 53-32 loss.
Cheyenne Wells was led by sophomore Paige Ryser, who battled through an injured knee, scoring 16 points and pulling down 8 rebounds.
Freshman Ashlynn Steinbrunn had a strong game with 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 steals.
Senior Kennedy Vallejos had 14 points, 4 boards, 2 assists, and 3 steals.
Gomez added 11 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 6 steals, and 4 blocked shots.