Eagles upset Rebels

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By Dan Johnson

The Dakota Ridge girls might be onto something.

Three days after defeating Green Mountain, the Eagles picked off their second straight Class 5A Jefferson County League opponent, toppling rival Columbine 48-43 on the Rebels’ home floor Jan. 16.

“I think this can be a turning point for us,” said Brooke Orcutt, who scored 11 points. “We fought through (early season struggles) and now it’s our time to succeed.”

The Eagles (2-1 Jeffco, 5-8 overall) overcame an ominous start as center Liz Malik was lost for the game in the opening minute after rolling her left ankle. The team’s four remaining starters, Orcutt, Jaime Brandhorst, Elisa Schauer and Janelle Baal combined to score 43 of the team’s 48 points.

Orcutt and Brandhorst, in particular, stood out against a Columbine (1-2, 9-4) squad that has now lost its last two games.

Orcutt, a sophomore that shows great potential, did an admirable job of hitting the offensive and defensive glass (along with reserve Sarah Fine), and also scored a pair of key layups down the stretch that effectively sealed the Eagles’ win.

“Liz is a good player but we all have the ability to step up when we need to,” Orcutt said. “It was an opportunity for Sarah and I to go out there and show it, and we did it.”

Brandhorst, who’s struggled at times this season, had a different look to her Jan. 16. She appeared more sure of herself on the court and as a result, was a key component in Dakota’s ability to break Columbine’s press with ease. Brandhorst also showed a nice touch from mid-range and finished with 10 points.

“Yeah, I did feel more confident out there,” Brandhorst said. “I knew my teammates had my back and I had theirs and I knew where everyone was going to be out on the floor. It was nice.”

Seniors Baal and Schauer stabilized their inexperienced teammates with good ball handling and baskets at key times. Baal, the team’s leading scorer, finished with 10 points while Schauer led the Eagles with 12. Most of Schauer’s baskets came from the free-throw area, which was consistently left unguarded by the Rebels.

After a back-and-forth first half ended with Dakota Ridge up by two, the Eagles slowly began to put some distance between themselves and the Rebels in the third quarter.

Baal scored seven of her 10 points in the quarter and a Schauer layup off a Baal assist gave the Eagles an eight-point lead entering the fourth quarter.

Columbine’s Demitra Apergis trimmed the deficit to six, scoring on a layup, but Dakota Ridge reserve Margo Hood knocked down a three in the corner to push the Eagles’ lead to 40-31. Schauer then hit a pair of jumpers and Orcutt’s layups on consecutive possessions increased the lead to 48-35 with 2:02 to play.

Columbine, which struggled from the floor, continued to battle with Apergis, Alyssa Maccan and Randee Hayes all hitting shots in the final minute. A banked-in 3-pointer by Hayes with 19 seconds left drew the Rebels within five, but they would get no closer.

“We have things we still have to work on, but this team is starting to figure out our fight and coming into their own,” Dakota Ridge coach Traci Nemechek said.