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Eagles' fast start doesn't hold up; Raiders prevail

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By Brian Forbes

AURORA — If the Regis Raiders really are the best girls basketball team in the state, Dakota Ridge can take pride in beating them for 12 minutes, 47 seconds on Saturday.

The other 19 minutes, 13 seconds? Not so much.

The Eagles looked like upstarts plotting an upset until the Raiders went on the attack, finishing the first half on a 13-0 run that would become a 22-0 run and eventually a 74-34 victory in the final of the Regis Holiday Hoop Classic.

Dakota Ridge led 18-10 on Jennelle Branting’s steal and layup early in the second quarter before the Raiders cut the deficit to 23-21.

A 3-pointer by Regis junior Mary Bokenkamp with 3:13 left in the second quarter was the final spark the Raiders would need as they took the lead for good, outscoring the Eagles 53-11 for the remainder of the game.

“They made their run and we didn’t do a very good job of responding to it,” Eagles coach Traci Nemechek said.

But, oh, what might have been.

The Eagles (9-2) came out strong, moved the ball, rebounded, were patient and took good shots. They had the Raiders out of sorts early on, forcing seven turnovers in the first quarter and getting points from six different players.

But once the Raiders got rolling behind the guard play of Mariah Williams, the midrange shooting of Meghan Winters and the inside tenacity of T’Keyah Shealy, there was no stopping them. Even scarier: Regis was without senior standout Kamile Nacickaite (vacation), who has signed to play at Drexel.

“I think the thing that hurt us was Jenna (Santistevan) got two fouls in the first quarter so you lose your athleticism and board presence,” Nemechek said.

The Eagles shot 47 percent in the first quarter, 21 percent in the second, 18 percent in the third and 23 percent in the fourth while finishing with 24 turnovers.

Branting and Brooke Pendergraft led the Eagles with 10 points apiece.

For Regis (10-1), which is in its fourth year of varsity basketball, Williams scored 22 points, Winters had 18 and Shealy had 13 points to go with 16 rebounds.

“For us to get where we need to be, we need to play the best teams,” Nemechek said. “We’re going to take it as experience, learn from it (and) build upon what we need to do.”