Tuesday night’s game between the Cherry Creek Bruins and the Cherokee Trail Cougars was the third such meeting between the Centennial League opponents. With playoff implications on the line, the Bruins advanced to the Great 8 with a 72-32 victory over the Cougars – taking all three games this season.
Cherry Creek went wire-to-wire Tuesday night in the victory. The Cougars season ended at the hands of the Bruins, as they looked sluggish and out-matched. The Bruins on the other hand, came into the game focused and ready to make a statement as defending state champions.
The first quarter was highlighted by back-to-back-to-back-to-back steals by Cherry Creek as they capitalized on the turnovers with fast-break baskets and an early 14-2 lead over Cherokee Trail. On the other side of the ball, the Cougars struggled to gain momentum following the stellar defensive efforts of senior Makayla Hemingway’s multiple blocks.
The second quarter picked up where the first left off. The Bruins continued to find the bottom of the net as senior Jana Van Gytenbeek head faked her way to an open lane and easy layup. Cherokee Trail attempted to shoot themselves back into the game, but found themselves trying to match the Cherry Creek tempo and settled for low-percentage looks.
Taking a 44-11 lead into the break, the Bruins looked confident heading into the second half. However, a scary moment occurred to open the half as senior Cali Clark was elbowed in the nose and left the game – head coach Clint Evans is hopeful for her return to the court for Friday’s game against Ralston Valley.
As Clark sat on the bench, the Cougars found life offensively and attacked the paint. Despite their efforts, the Bruins’ lead was too great to overcome and they did not let their foot off the gas. In the fourth, Evans sat all of his starters to prevent any further injuries as his team went home with a 40-point victory to advance.
Not much went right for the Cougars in Tuesday’s playoff game, but they can hang their hats on a good season as they look towards the future. Senior Dominique Rodriguez finished her career with the Cougars as the team’s leading scorer with nine points. Future Colorado State Ram, senior Makayla Hemingway, ended her time with Cherokee Trail with six points. A scary moment for sophomore Sierra Culbreath led to her being carried off the court with a leg injury to start the fourth – we hope for a speedy recovery.
The Bruins in typical Bruins fashion had help from a multitude of players Tuesday night. Future teammate of Hemingway, Cali Clark was the game’s leading scorer with 17 points before she left the game with a nose injury. Junior KaCee Kyle was next with 16 points of her own. Junior Abby Wrede and senior Jana Van Gytenbeek were next with 14 and 11 points respectively in the victory.