Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jocelyn Rowley

Girls Basketball: Cougars grab two wins despite loss of key players


January 20, 2017

And then there were eight.

That’s how many players Niwot head coach Terri Ward was able to field in last week’s rivalry game against Longmont. In the first two weeks of 2017, the Cougars have lost four varsity players to injury, including junior Rosie Setter, who is out for the season, and junior Allie Mercier, who is out with a high ankle sprain. Without the services of key veteran players, the depleted squad seemed doomed to struggle in the first weeks of conference play.

Somebody forgot to tell the Cougars however. Led by sophomore center Zoe Gonzales, Niwot nabbed two road victories last week, including a 41-37 overtime win over the Trojans. Two days later, the Cougars came from behind in the fourth quarter to beat the Mountain View Mountain Lions 48-45. They improved to 7-5 on the season, and are now 2-1 in the Northern League. Since returning from the winter holidays, the Cougars are 4-2.

Ward, for one, is not terribly surprised by her short-handed team’s unexpected success.

“Everybody really works well together, and they really like each other,” she explained. “I think that makes a big difference how they are willing to step up and take on extra responsibility.”

Certainly, the Cougars are seeing increased production out of their varsity veterans, especially Gonzales. The 6-3 center led Niwot in scoring over the two games, with 26 points. She also nabbed 18 rebounds, and had seven blocks. In her last three games, the 6-3 center has averaged 13.6 ppg, and gone 8-17 from the line, doubling her free throw total for the season. Though she is young, Ward said she isn’t surprised by Gonzales’ development into a team leader.

“We saw it last year as a freshman toward the end of the season,” said the coach. “And then the success with volleyball has really helped her confidence overall.” Gonzales was the starting middle hitter for the Cougars’ volleyball squad that went 14-0 in the Northern League and won a regional title.

Juniors Mary Gillett and Sophie Grant are also taking advantage of their extended playing time. In the game against Mountain View, Gillett scored ten points, and was 6-of-12 from the free throw line. In the same game, Grant matched her 10 points, and also grabbed 13 boards for her first double-double of the season.

Junior Shelby Stevens, who has joined the varsity squad full-time, has also proved tough on both sides of the ball during this stretch. She had 10 rebounds in the Mountain View game, and went 4-7 at the line in the two games. Allie Colvin had seven points against the Trojans, her highest total since the Dec. 5 loss at Mead.

Senior YY Chen, the team’s veteran point guard, has remained a steady presence on offense. Against Longmont, Chen had seven points and five assists, and was responsible for two of the team’s four three-pointers.

Ward admitted she worries about “playing seven kids without killing them,” but thinks careful deployment of her bench players and time-outs will help counter the increase in minutes.

“I think they’re getting enough rest,” she said of her starters. “We can rotate in Allie and Shelby, who are playing great off the bench.”

Ultimately, Ward remained cautiously optimistic about the Cougars’ chances to make a run in the post-season. Citing a rare competitive balance, Ward said there’s no clear favorite to win the Northern League title this year.

“Everybody is beating up on everybody,” she explained. “I haven’t decided if that’s a good thing or a bad thing,” since CHSAA is using RPI this year, a system which ranks playoff teams according to strength of schedule.

“If we can just keep getting quality wins, then everything will fall into place.”

The Cougars met conference foe Thompson Valley on Jan. 17, and then go to Centaurus on Jan. 19.

(1/10) — Niwot 41, Longmont 37 (OT)

Niwot ( 6-5, 1-1) 7 5 14 8 7 — 41

Longmont (2-7, 1-2) 11 6 7 10 3 — 37

Zoe Gonzales 5 1-4 11, Mary Gillett 2 3-9 8, YY Chen 2 1-4 7, Allie Colvin 3 0-0 7, Sophie Grant 1 1-2 3, Shelby Stevens 0 2-2 2, Totals 13 8-21 41.

(1/12) — Niwot 48, Mountain View 45

Niwot (7-5, 2-1) 11 13 10 14 — 48

Mountain View (6-6, 2-1) 12 11 15 7 — 45

Zoe Gonzales 5 5-8 15, Mary Gillett 2 6-12 10, Sophie Grant 3 4-5 10, YY Chen 2 1-2 6, Allie Colvin 1 0-0 3, Shelby Stevens 1 2-5 4 Totals 14 18-32 48.


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