STERLING – All girls' basketball season, the Riverdale Rams have made a habit of getting an early lead and then building from there. Things were no different Friday night in the Class 2A Newman Regional championship.|
The Rams scored the game's first 11 points, then used a third-quarter run to salt away a 50-42 victory over the Newman Comets.
"We had good mental focus, and we were able to play a lot more relaxed because we got the lead right away," Riverdale senior Elle May said. "Our goal every game is to get the lead and then maintain it, and our defense was a big part of that tonight."
Riverdale (24-2) never trailed, handling a pair of Newman rallies. The Comets' first run came after all-time leading scorer Hannah Nimrick picked up her second foul late in the first quarter. The Rams saw their 11-0 lead shrink to 12-8 by the end of the quarter, and Newman (15-12) was still within five (21-16) in the final minute of the second period.
However, Jess Corson nailed a jumper with 4.2 seconds left until halftime, and Riverdale carried that momentum over into the second half.
"That last shot of the half killed us," Newman coach Jay Howell said. "We were right there in it, then they score right before the buzzer and it deflated us a little bit."
The Rams put the game in a stranglehold with a 12-2 run over the final 3:37 of the third quarter and first 2:18 of the fourth to build a 39-22 lead. Newman started hitting some shots down the stretch, but Riverdale led by at least eight the rest of the way. Nimrick, May and Sydney Mericle all hitting free throws over the final 48 seconds to ice things.
With the Comets' game plan to keep Nimrick from beating them, the rest of the Rams stepped up. May and Mericle scored 12 points each, with May grabbing nine rebounds, dishing three assists and nabbing three steals, and Mericle pulling down seven boards to go with two assists and two steals. Corson finished with nine points, three steals, two assists and two blocks, and Nimrick still managed to score nine points, grab 10 rebounds, dish two assists and block two shots.
"We worked as a team on both ends," Mericle said. "We moved our feet and helped each other out on defense, and we kept working the ball around on offense. We know when they take away one person, we've got other girls who can score."
Mary Alice Oswalt paced Newman with 17 points.
"I thought we played really good defense, and got a lot of good looks," Schmitt said, "but it seemed like they were making shots and they weren't going in for us. We wanted to hold Nimrick to single digits, and we did, but they're a well-rounded team; everyone can hurt you on offense, so it's really hard to shut them down."
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