In any successful relationship, communication and trust are vital.
The Dakota Ridge girls basketball team didn’t feel as though they trusted each other, so, just prior to its biggest game of the season, the Eagles held a team meeting to discuss their lack of dialect.
The 45-minute session proved to be very productive as the Eagles kept their unlikely Class 5A Jefferson County League title hopes alive with a convincing 46-34 victory over Chatfield Feb. 12 at Chatfield Senior High School.
With the victory, the Eagles (8-3 Jeffco, 11-10 overall) remain a game behind league-leader Columbine (9-2, 17-4), who the Eagles host Feb. 20 to close out the regular season. Having already defeated the Rebels once this year, a second win over the Rebels could give the Eagles the top seed out of Jeffco entering the state tournament. But, with Arvada West, Ralston Valley and Chatfield all sitting at 8-3, things are far from settled as the final week of the regular season begins.
“We knew we had to pull together for this game,” said Dakota Ridge senior, Liz Malik, who scored 12 points. “I really felt like we came together as a team. The meeting we had definitely paid off.”
The Eagles led wire-to-wire Feb. 12 and were never seriously threatened by the Chargers (11-10 overall), who, after starting out league play with seven straight wins, have now dropped three of their last four games.
In addition to Malik’s strong play on the interior, fellow seniors Elisa Schauer and Janelle Baal helped pace the Dakota Ridge attack with solid mid-range and perimeter play. Schauer fought for all 10 of her points while Baal knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and drove to the basket on a couple of occasions to finish with a game-high 16 points.
“The inside-outside game is really something we’ve been working on,” Malik said. “We moved the ball around well (Feb. 12) and were able to get a lot of good looks at the basket.”
For Chatfield, it was a rough go of it from the floor. They had plenty of good looks, but were just unable to convert. Two of the team’s top scorers, Chrissy Armstrong and Chelsea O’Brien, were held to a combined five field goals and 11 points. Senior guard Dilan Sutliff tried to pick up the slack, knocking down three 3-pointers and scoring 13 of the Chargers’ 16 second half points.
Still, despite the shooting woes, Chatfield managed to hang around, trailing by five at halftime and six after three quarters. A 3-pointer by Sutliff midway through the quarter pulled Chatfield within five points, but they would get no closer as Malik, Schauer and Baal effectively closed out the game, each hitting a key basket late in the fourth quarter to push the Eagles’ lead into double figures.
Dakota Ridge has been the queens of Jeffco the past five years, winning four league titles outright and sharing the league crown with Lakewood last year. After losing four starters and a key bench player from last year’s team, the Eagles weren’t looked upon as league title contenders this season, yet they find themselves possibly a game away from a sixth straight league title.
“Being a senior, it’s an amazing feeling to know we still have a chance at league,” Baal said. “Our season didn’t start off well. We really struggled. Our standard is league and even though we lost a lot of talent from last year, we still had that goal of winning league.”
Dakota Ridge 10-13-8-15—46
Dakota Ridge: Baal 7 0-2 16, Brooke Orcutt 0 0-1 0, Jaime Brandhorst 2 2-2 6, Schauer 3 4-5 10, Malik 6 0-0 12, Kaitee Ard 0 1-2 1, Skippy Tripp 0 1-2 1, Sarah Fine 0 0-0 0, Courtney Rehl 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 8-14 46.
Chatfield: Kate Kurtenbach 1 0-0 2, Sutliff 5 2-4 15, O’Brien 2 0-0 4, Morton 2 0-0 4, Armstrong 3 1-2 7, Natalie Smart 1 0-0 2, Cass Hanna 0 0-0 0, Emily Kotulak 0 0-0 0, Kristina Kules 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 3-6 31.
3-pt. goals: Baal 2, Sutliff 3.