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Dakota Ridge girls punch their ticket to the Great Eight

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By Michael Hicks

Lauren Wood and Jae Ferrin proved that two were better than one, and because of that the Dakota Ridge Lady Eagles are going to the Great Eight.
Wood and Ferrin combined to score 52 points — 29 and 23, respectively — to lead the Lady Eagles to a 60-46 victory over Legacy in the 5A Sweet 16 on March 4 at Dakota Ridge High School. The sixth-seeded Lady Eagles (19-7) will face top-seeded Fossil Ridge in the Sharon Wilch Region finals on March 6 at the Denver Coliseum. Game time is set for 5:30 p.m. Fossil Ridge (24-1), ranked fifth, knocked off Denver East 61-43.
“It’s unbelievable. I wasn’t scoring tonight, but I’m so glad I have Lauren on my team. She’s such a great asset,” said Ferrin, who scored 11 of her 23 points from the foul line. “I’m glad our passing game was on and she was finishing.”
Both teams went on 10-0 runs in the first quarter. First, Dakota Ridge ran off 10 consecutive points to take a 14-5 lead before Legacy retaliated with 10 of its own, including back-to-back 3-pointers to close the quarter up 15-14.
The seventh-seeded Lady Lightning (11-15), who reached the Sweet 16 after upsetting second-seeded ThunderRidge in the second round, increased that lead to nine late in the second quarter before taking a 29-22 cushion into the intermission.
But Dakota Ridge opened the second half on an 11-2 run to go in front 33-31. Though Legacy tied the game at 33 a minute later, it never recaptured the lead.
Courtney Smith led Legacy with 22 points, 15 of which came in the first half. However, the Lady Eagles employed a box-and-one defense to contain the 6-foot-4 junior, and it worked out over the final two quarters.
“Jae Ferrin does a great job for us on defense. We put her on Smith in the first half. (But) Jae does much better coming up and helping. So we switched and put our other senior, Lauren Wood, on Smith so that Jae could use her ability to roam around and force turnovers. She just played that to perfection,” Dakota Ridge head coach Rich Gavelda said.
The Lady Eagles opened the fourth quarter on a 12-1 run to put the game away. Wood scored eight of those 12 points. Caitlin Navratil finished with seven points, including a third-quarter 3-pointer that tied the game at 31. Dakota Ridge’s only other point was a free throw from Mia Valerio in the closing seconds.
The Lady Eagles, who’ve undergone a coaching change in-season and dealt with a rash of injuries of late, are in the Great Eight for the first time since the 2007-08 season.
“We hoped that it would happen. We had a plan to make it happen, but, honestly, everything really came together for us,” Gavelda said. “The girls really stepped up and brought in to what we were trying to do.”