Another slow start followed by a strong finish meant a championship run for Poudre High School’s girls basketball team.
The Impalas dominated the second half Saturday afternoon and pulled away from Sterling for a 43-25 victory in the title game of the Battle of the Rockies tournament at Rocky Mountain High School.
The championship for Poudre came after it dropped its opener at Ralston Valley last week.
The Impalas beat Smoky Hill on Thursday and Cheyenne Central on Friday night.
“It’s pretty exciting; we’re pretty pumped to start our season winning this championship,” Poudre junior Ashley McDaniel said. “It was our defense and coming out with intensity and energy and playing together.”
It was the defense that truly led the way throughout this tournament for the Impalas (3-1). They held Smoky Hill to 22 points and Cheyenne Central to just 38.
In holding Sterling to just 25 points, including 10 in the first half, Poudre forced 31 turnovers.
They led 17-10 at halftime and 30-18 heading into the fourth quarter.
The win over the Tigers (2-1) in the title game was similar to the semifinal win over Cheyenne Central. Poudre led 16-15 at halftime of that game, struggling on offense before finding some offensive rhythm though its defense.
“That’s going to kind of be a theme with us,” Poudre coach Curtis Glesmann said. “I think we know that ahead of time, so I wish we could turn that defense on right away. Sometimes it just takes a little time to get going.”
Poudre came out quick to start the second half, turning that seven-point halftime lead into a 12-point lead at 25-13 midway through the quarter. A layup by McKenzie McDaniel at the third-quarter buzzer gave the Impalas the 30-18 lead.
The Impalas led by as many as 20 points in the win, although it was far from as easy as the score indicated.
Ashley McDaniel had 13 points to lead Poudre, while Myanne Hamm had 12 and McKenzie McDaniel added nine.
“I think it’s a huge confidence boost, and last year we didn’t always win close games like this,” Glesmann said. “The game (Friday) was close, and we had to do smart things down the stretch. This was close most of the way until the end.
“We’re learning and growing going through these situations. It can help us improve a lot.”
ROCKY MOUNTAIN 64, CHEYENNE CENTRAL 47 — The Lobos bounced back from a semifinal loss to take third place in their tournament.
Anna Ernst scored 28 points, and Asiah Lawson added 13 for Rocky (4-2), which made seven 3-pointers.
The Lobos led by just two points at halftime and we able to pull away in the second half.
Follow reporter Jeff Bersch at twitter.com/Coloradoan_JB.