Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jocelyn Rowley

Cougars top Northridge in finale, but miss playoffs


February 23, 2017

Photo by Ed Navarro Niwot’s Mary Gillett pushes the ball up the floor against Thompson Valley.

Before the 2016-17 season began, Niwot head coach Terri Ward felt her team had a good chance to make the playoffs, even if no one else really did. So it was a heartbreaking end to what was supposed to be their redemption season when the Niwot girls basketball team found itself out of the 2017mplayoff picture by just a whisker.

“We were .0364 away from going,” explained Niwot head coach Terri Ward. “If we win one more game somewhere, that’s all it would have taken.”

When the CHSAA’s final regular season RPI rankings were released last weekend, Niwot ended up in 49th place, just one slot away from the top-48 team cutoff.

“I’m not going to lie,” continued Ward. “I’m totally disappointed in the fact that we’re not in.”

Ward said that ultimately it was difficult to overcome the injury bug that bit the team mid-season.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the season would have gone a different way,” said Ward. “So in that regard, it’s extra tough.”

Niwot was also hurt in the RPI by two games it won handily, against Steamboat Springs (60-25) and Conifer (61-34) at the Roughrider Shootout Tournament. Steamboat finished 0-23 on the season while Conifer went 7-17, and both games hurt the Cougars’ strength of schedule factor. Niwot split the season against the No. 48 team, Thompson Valley (8-15), losing early (52-43) before winning at home (59-45). The Jan. 17 loss was most likely the biggest factor in the Cougars missing the playoffs, as Niwot led TV by two points at the end of the third quarter before a disastrous fourth quarter deficit (17-6) cost them the game and ultimately, a playoff berth.

The Cougars wrapped up their home schedule with a loss to the Centaurus Warriors on Feb. 13, but bounced back for a win against the Northridge Grizzlies in the final game on the season two nights later. With the split, Niwot finished the season with an 11-12 overall record, including a 6-8 conference mark, and will miss the playoffs for the seventh straight year.

Niwot opened the week at home against the Centaurus Warriors (16-5), the Northern League’s top team. A tough Warriors defense stifled the Cougars offense in the early going, allowing just 17 first-half points. Clearly rattled, Cougars shooters fared no better in the second half, and Centaurus went on to win 44-35.

Junior Sophie Grant was the Cougars’ leading scorer on the night, with eight points, including 4-of-6 from the line. Junior Allie Colvin and sophomore Zoe Gonzales each had six points, while seniors Y.Y. Chen and Meah Ricciardello combined for seven.

Following the game, Ward and the team honored Chen and Ricciardello as part of the annual Senior Night. Both players were given flowers, and teammates shared their favorite basketball memories.

Ricciardello said her favorite memory of Niwot basketball was a giant birthday cupcake she received, and she also had some advice for next year’s varsity squad when dealing with pressure. “Learn when to settle down,” she cautioned.

Her fellow senior Chen became emotional when discussing her last home game.

“I played all four years in this gym,” she said. “And it’s so said to think that this is my last time here.”

I love the sport so much,” she continued. “Coach Ward and my teammates they’ve just meant so much to me.”

The seniors did close out their careers on a positive note, with a 54-37 win two nights later against the Northridge Grizzlies (5-17, 1-12). Both Gonzales and junior Mary Gillett had 17 points on the night for the Cougars, with Chen, Grant and Colvin all adding six apiece, while junior Shelby Stevens had the final two.

But even with the win, Niwot ended up as that most unenviable of all teams, the first one on the outside looking in. Even so, Ward believes her team has plenty to be proud of.

“It was still a good season,” she said. “With what we had most of the time, no one thought we’d be 3/1000 of a percentage point away from being the 48th team.”

(2/13) — Centaurus 44, Niwot 35

Warriors (16-5, 10-2) 12 8 9 15 — 44

Cougars (10-12, 5-8) 6 11 9 9 — 35

Sophie Grant 2 4-6 8, Allie Colvin 2 1-1 6, Zoe Gonzales 2 2-2 6, Y.Y. Chen 2 0-0 5, Mary Gillett 2 0-2 4, Meah Ricciardello 0 2-2 2, Mel Martinez 1 0-0 2, Shelby Stevens 0 2-2 2 Totals 11 11-15 35

(2/15) — Niwot 54, Northridge 37

Cougars (11-12, 6-8) 7 16 18 13 — 54

Grizzlies (5-17, 1-12) 9 13 4 11 — 37

Mary Gillett 7 3-7 17, Zoe Gonzales 7 3-10 17, Chen 2 2-2 6, Allie Colvin 2 0-1 6, Sophie Grant 3 0-0 6, Shelby Stevens 1 0-0 2 Totals 22 8-20 54


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