Can't spoil her party

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By Brian Forbes

Let the Dakota Ridge Eagles girls basketball team eat cake. They certainly deserved it Mar. 1.

After getting roughed up on the boards by George Washington and in danger of getting roughed up all over, the Eagles leaned heavily on their age an experience.

So when senior Jennelle Branting emerged from the locker room after Dakota Ridge’s 73-50 Class 5A second round playoff victory, she had a deserved slice of cheesecake to wash down a razor performance.

“I just started thinking about this being my last home game,” Branting said.

Branting scored a game-high 28 points, including 12 in the second quarter, and senior Brooke Pendergraft added 20 as the Eagles (21-3) won their seventh straight and advanced to the Sweet 16.

“I think you just saw some senior leadership and experience,” Eagles coach Traci Nemechek said. “They’ve been here before.”

The Eagles, seeded No. 2 in the Carol Callan Region, will face No. 3 Monarch (16-7) on Mar. 6 at 7:30 p.m. at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland. With a victory, the Eagles would face the winner of No. 1 Regis (22-2) and No. 5 Heritage (14-11) on March 8 at the Denver Coliseum.

Against the No. 10 Patriots (12-12), the Eagles were outrebounded 11-3 in the first quarter and outscored 19-12 before Branting just got angry. Or inspired.

Branting scored to make it 19-14 at the end of the quarter and went on to hit four straight baskets to begin the second quarter to fuel a 10-0 run that put the Eagles up for good. Branting shot 13-for-17 from the field and at one point cashed eight consecutive shots in addition to grabbing four rebounds and blocking two shots.

Faced with the prospect of running in practice for each rebound the Patriots had more than them, the Eagles dominated the glass in the second half behind Jenna Santistevan and Lindsi Holm, who sat most of the first half in foul trouble.

Santistevan grabbed nine of her 10 rebounds after halftime as the Eagles outrebounded the Patriots 32-11 in the second half and 45-32 for the game.

Nemechek said the thought of running for getting outrebounded was key to her squad’s resurgence.

The Eagles led by six in the second half and pushed their advantage to 15 midway through the third quarter on Santistevan’s offensive rebound and basket off a miss by Tira Callaway.

The Patriots cut the deficit to 54-45 with 5:23 left in the fourth quarter but Branting answered with a 3-pointer to spark a 7-0 run and remove any doubt.

Pendergraft scored eight points in the fourth quarter and was steady throughout both inside and outside.

G. Washington 19-10-6-15—50

Dakota Ridge 14-17-19-23—73

George Washington: Anderson 0 1-2 1, Rodriguez 0 0-0 0, Maes 2 1-2 5, Moore 3 0-2 7, Wagner 5 1-4 13, Johnson 5 5-7 15, Jones 2 1-2 5, Ransom 1 2-4 4, Slay 0 0-0 0, Haley 0 0-0 0, Hill 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 11-23 50.

Dakota Ridge: Baal 2 0-2 4, Santistevan 1 1-2 3, Branting 13 1-2 28, Pendergraft 7 5-6 20, Holm 2 0-0 4, Callaway 1 2-2 4, Malik 0 5-6 5, Shepler 0 2-4 2, Schauer 0 1-2 1, Orcutt 1 0-0 2, Brandhorst 0 0-0 0. Totals: 27 17-26 73.

3-point goals: Wagner 2, Moore; Branting, Pendergraft.