A simple question, but a difficult answer

The Wolverines have no reply vs. can’t-miss Buffs in a losing battle

FORT COLLINS – Machebeuf asked the Bayfield High School girls basketball one question Friday afternoon: How do you beat a team that hits 58 percent from the floor and 67 percent from 3-point range?

The Wolverines only had one answer: You don’t.

“You almost can’t,” Bayfield senior Candace Shaw said. “They hit lights out. ... I don’t even know if you can do anything about it.”

The Buffaloes trampled the Wolverines 72-49 in the consolation semifinals of the CHSAA Class 3A Girls Basketball State Championships in Colorado State University’s Moby Arena, using their hefty and towering inside attack and eagle-eye precision to end the Bayfield girls’ record-setting 20-win season.

Bayfield head coach Ronnie Posey said the Wolverines planned to take Machebeuf’s 6-1, 180-pound Rebecca Howell, who has averaged almost 16 points a game, out of contention.

They succeeded early, staying even with the Buffaloes 13-13 toward the end of the first quarter.

Then, Machebeuf hit three consecutive 3-pointers to finish the first period 22-13, and the shots wouldn’t stop falling.

“You expected them to cool off a little bit, and they never did,” Posey said.

Machebeuf head coach Ellie Kempfe said a 29-percent field goal percentage cost the No. 2-seeded Buffaloes their elite-eight game against the Denver School of Science & Technology on Thursday night. The loss gave the Buffaloes a drive to prove themselves, she said, and the shooting made all the difference.

“It was kind of revenge for (Thursday night),” Howell said. “I think it was all mental.”

Howell took plenty of that revenge personally.

After Heidi Grandon softened up the No. 6-seeded Wolverines in the first half with 100-percent accuracy on four shots from the floor and three from beyond the arc, Howell went to work.

She scored a game-high 19 points for the Buffaloes, hitting 80 percent of her shots, including a 3-pointer. She also blocked five shots.

Twenty-four of the Machebeuf points fell from 3-point range.

“It’s really hard when you come up against a team that can shoot ... like a foot outside the 3-point line,” Bayfield senior Tia Neeley said.

For their part, the Wolverines did everything they could to fix the mistakes that did them in against Eaton on Thursday.

The Bayfield girls cut their turnover count in more than half, giving Machebeuf the ball just 12 times.

They pushed back against the much-bigger Buffaloes under the boards, pulling down just one less rebound than Machebeuf at 33-32.

And the Wolverines drove, shot and scrambled to put the ball in the basket, even if only 29 percent of their shots would fall.

Shaw led the effort, dropping 19 points for the Wolverines and pulling down 10 off the boards for her final career double-double. Shaw is the daughter of Carla and John Shaw.

Kayla Strobel was close behind with 15 points.

But no matter what defense the Wolverines threw at the Buffaloes, they couldn’t keep up with a scoring machine.

Behind Howell’s 19, Aisha May scored 13 points, Grandon added 11 and Dianna Montoya 10.

The Buffaloes had great players at every position, Shaw said, and they scored 18 off the bench.

Machebeuf pushed its nine-point first-quarter lead to 16 in the second quarter. True to their surge-style offensively, the Wolverines made an 11-2 run to close within seven with two minutes to play in the half.

But eight quick points, including two more 3-pointers, put the game back out of reach when the half ended at 41-26.

The Buffaloes extended the margin to 17 to start the second half and matched nine consecutive points from Shaw to stay ahead for a 56-36 third-quarter close.

And for the final eight minutes of the game , the Buffaloes (23-2) just kept stampeding.

“I just think we came out with more of a determination,” Kempfe said.

But even with the game out of hand and the starting five on the bench, the Wolverines never quit flying around court, drawing fouls, fouling, stealing, shooting and generally frustrating the Machebeuf players and fans.

In the final 10 seconds, Keenan Moreta scored three points on free throws by hustling under the rim. She also pulled down seven rebounds, a handful of them as the clock ran down.

“Nobody quits,” said senior Taylor Harrison, the daughter of Drayton and Trish Harrison. “That’s Bayfield. You don’t quit.”

The Wolverines finished the season with a school-best 20-5 record after finishing last year with a losing record. This year was the first time since 1981 the Bayfield girls played at an elite-eight level in the state tournament.

“The kids just did it,” Posey said.

Even in the “awful” defeat, Shaw said the overall season, including finishing as one of the eight best teams in the state, is something everyone can be proud of.

It’s a really good feeling to make it as far as the Wolverines did, Neeley said.

A teary Posey went even a little further.

“Every coach stands here and says these same things, but they can’t mean it more,” Posey said.

“I would go to battle with that bunch. Against anybody.”

jimsojourner@ durangoherald.com