Jim Rydbom/Greeley Tribune
FORT COLLINS – Sometimes it’s the size of the dog in the fight, after all.
On Tuesday, Bayfield High School head girls basketball coach Ronnie Posey said the Wolverines’ elite-eight game against Eaton in the CHSAA Class 3A Girls Basketball State Championships would be a “dogfight.”
And despite all the fight in the Bayfield dog, the size of the Eaton dog was just too much to handle. The Reds overpowered the Wolverines 52-38 on Thursday in Colorado State University’s Moby Arena.
“It was a battle,” Eaton’s Kayla Cheney said. “I’ll give them that: They played tough.”
Against a “really strong” squad that outsized the Wolverines in just about every position, No. 6-seeded Bayfield struggled to find inroads into the paint or prevent the No. 3-seeded Reds from getting extra chances under the basket.
The Reds also turned Bayfield’s own in-your-face pressure defense against them, forcing the Wolverines to turn the ball over 31 times with a sticky full-court press.
“Turnovers and turnovers and turnovers,” Bayfield’s Kayla Strobel said.
Eaton converted those turnovers and turnovers and turnovers into 31 points, while the Reds turned the ball over 16 times for nine Bayfield points.
That, Bayfield’s Breetta Moe said, was a killer.
“They didn’t miss. Down below, they couldn’t miss,” she said.
Eaton head coach Todd Hernandez said when he saw Bayfield hadn’t been to the state tournament in 31 years, he thought “holy crap” and knew the Wolverines would come out “flying around with a lot of energy.”
And they did.
With a 3-pointer, the Wolverines took an early lead, then led by seven at 17-10 at the end of the first quarter. BHS scored 15 points from beyond the arc in the first half, 12 of them on three 3s from Moe. The Wolverines hit 5 of 7 shots from long range in the first half, before dropping to 6-for-12 on the game.
Moe scored a game-high 18 points for the Wolverines, 12 of them from 3-point range and 15 of them in the first half.
“Holy cow, give Breetta Moe credit. She shot the lights out,” Hernandez said.
“We told Breetta, ‘You’ve got the green light,’” Posey said.
Bayfield accelerated its lead to 20-10 to start the second half on a 3 from Strobel.
On the night, Strobel scored 11 points for the Wolverines, ahead of Candace Shaw’s six.
But that lead evaporated on a 13-0 run from the Reds, and the Wolverines found themselves back in that dogfight.
The score was 27-26 Bayfield at the half.
Then Eaton’s power started to take its toll.
The Wolverines came out sluggish and timid in the second half, and the turnovers started to roll. The Bayfield attack also grounded to a halt.
The Wolverines scored just three field goals, including one 3, in the second half for a total of 11 points. During the final 16 minutes, the Reds, led by the hard-charging Cheney and Karli Jelden, scored 26.
The duo each scored a team-high 15 for the Reds, while Leah Cheney, Kayla’s sister, and Kailey Kaiser each added 10 as the Reds extended their lead to 40-33 at the end of three frames.
Kayla Cheney credited her team’s second-half run to the experience of playing for the 3A championship last year, while Shaw said a breakdown in communication kept the Wolverines from hanging with the Reds as they ran away with the state quarterfinal in the final quarter.
“You’re going to see this (Eaton) team on Saturday (in the championship game),” Posey said. “We gave them all they could handle for three quarters.”
The Wolverines will take on No. 2 Machebeuf – upset by No. 7 Denver School of Science & Technology 47-43 on Thursday – today in the consolation semifinals in Fort Collins.
The key to victory, Posey said, will be shutting down Machebeuf’s “very strong” inside pressure and pulling down rebounds.
Strobel said limiting turnovers also will be critical.
“We didn’t come here to get eighth,” a choked-up Shaw said.