Eagles’ senior leadership pays off

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Dakota Ridge scores upset to reach Sweet 16

By Michael Hicks

COLORADO SPRINGS — The pressure might have been a wee bit scary, but Jae Ferrin didn’t show any nerves as the Dakota Ridge senior drove the baseline.
With the clock winding down, she calmly pushed the ball down the right sideline and scored a layup with 10.8 seconds remaining as the Dakota Ridge Lady Eagles, with senior leadership on their side, squeezed out a 49-47 upset over host Pine Creek on Feb. 28 in the second round of the 5A state girls basketball tournament.
Pine Creek, seeded third in the Sharon Wilch Region, made two last-dash efforts to tie the game, but Spencer Lindsey and Courtney Stanton, both freshmen, missed shots from in close in the final seconds that would have sent the game to overtime. In all, the Pine Creek Lady Eagles started five underclassmen, including four freshmen, but it was Dakota Ridge’s experience — it has six seniors on the roster — that prevailed.
“It definitely brought us together at the end when it was tied and when they went ahead,” said Ferrin, who finished with a game-high 18 points. Caitlin Navratil added 15, including three 3-pointers, and Lauren Wood scored 14.
“It was a lot for a bunch of freshmen to handle,” Ferrin said. “We’ve had the experience in these kinds of games. It was tough, but it was good for us to come together.”
Dakota Ridge (18-7), the sixth seed, hosted No. 7 Legacy, a 40-36 upset winner over No. 2 ThunderRidge, in the Sweet 16 on March 4 for the rights to go to the Great Eight on March 6 at the Denver Coliseum. Results from the Sweet 16 game weren’t available at press time.
Pine Creek (21-3), which led briefly in the third quarter, went ahead by two points three times in the fourth quarter — the final time after Stanton scored off an inbound pass with 1 minute, 1 second remaining. But Dakota Ridge, which missed five of its first six free throws and had another shot negated by a lane violation, made five straight down the stretch.
“It was key. It brought our confidence back up,” said Wood, who hit two foul shots to tie the game at 42 with 1:11 left. Navratil hit two more with 41.8 seconds remaining after Ferrin’s three-point play to put Dakota Ridge ahead 47-44 before Taylor Cross’ 3-pointer 13 seconds later tied the game.
“I’m not going to say we lost our confidence down two, but this definitely helped our confidence,” Wood said. “We made those two to tie it. That’s what pushed us through the end.”
“We thought if we slowed down a little and controlled our possessions, that we would be able to fight through and let our seniors win this game, and that’s what we did,” Dakota Ridge head coach Rich Gavelda said.
Dakota Ridge has endured a lot in recent weeks. Doug Maier, the team’s first-year head coach, resigned five weeks ago to take a position out of state. Gavelda, the program’s junior varsity coach, stepped in to fill the role. It has also lost Allie Myers and Sydney Buchli to injuries, yet it has persevered.
“It was a challenge, but they responded very well,” Gavelda said. “We have a great senior team. All of us knew if we just got out of their way a little bit and let them be the players they are — and, really, that was our strategy when we took over — they would show their many talents.”
Jade Odom and Cross led Pine Creek with 12 points apiece.

Contact Michael Hicks at sports@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.