LOVELAND — In what was the fifth match-up between valley rivals, Del Norte’s Tigers took down Sanford by a score of 44-27 in the third place game at the Budweiser Event Center in Loveland.
Both squads had their share of ups-and-downs en route to the possibility of taking home third place hardware. On day one Kiela Madrid helped the Tigers eliminate No. 3 Meeker with a buzzer beater to avoid overtime. On the other end of the bracket Sanford’s defense smothered Limon to send the top ranked Badgers to the consolation bracket.
On day two Del Norte met the defending and eventual champions, Yuma. The Tigers were late out of the starting gates and got outpaced by Yuma. Sanford played the equally scrappy Swink Lions. Sanford garnered foul trouble and the Lions would advance. Which set up day three, Del Norte-Sanford 5 for third place.
For the fifth time the two teams would meet in a fifth different city —games spanning La Junta, Alamosa, Del Norte and Sanford. Speaking on the match-up Del Norte Head Coach and CHSCA Coach of the Year Gilbert Sanchez gave Sanford’s defense full marks “I like their defense — they play great helpside and pack that paint, you get the ball anywhere close to the paint and they got two or three girls on it. It makes it a battle.”
Both teams showed wear and tear at the outset of the rematch. Del Norte would get going first thanks to five straight points from senior Emily Gallegos to put the Tigers up 8-4. Del Norte would continue to a 10-6 lead after one.
In the second half Del Norte would continue to pace Sanford to an 18-10 score. Unfortunately for the Tigers, just like their game with Yuma junior Kendra Parra would put herself in a precarious position with three first half fouls, prompting some bench time for the prolific scorer.
Sanford’s Asia Caldon would heat up in the second quarter with a three pointer followed by two free throws completing a five point run to get Sanford in position for a manageable second half. Caldon finished with 11 points good enough to lead Sanford in scoring.
Instead it was Del Norte that would took the initiative in the second half. The Tigers went on an 11-4 run to open up a ten-point lead thanks to four points each from seniors Sophia McConnell and Lacie Jones.
A favorable situation tilted for Del Norte when Parra collected her fourth foul with 6 minutes remaining in the fourth followed swiftly by senior Kiela Madrid racking three quick ones to get to four herself.
With two girls on the brink of fouling out for Del Norte oddly enough it was Sanford who piled up infractions in the second half with 13 fouls in the final 16 minutes. Sanford would send Parra to the line five times in the fourth quarter where she would go 7-of-10, making up better than half of her team leading 13 points on the night.
Del Norte would separate themselves further in the waning minutes to complete the 17-point victory. With the win Del Norte claimed third place in the 2A Girls’ Basketball Tournament, placing Sanford fourth.
Both squads made major strides from their original seeding. Del Norte placed third after entering as the No. 6 seed while Sanford entered as the No. 8 seed and advanced to the fourth place spot.