Elizabeth understood the dangers of overlooking Vista PEAK Prep when the two teams squared off last Tuesday night in a Colorado 7 League showdown.
After all, Vista PEAK was carrying a five-game winning streak into the contest, and the youthful Bison had recently upset Fort Lupton 54-51, a team that had beaten Elizabeth 67-66. However the Cardinals of coach Mike Boss were able to prevail 76-57 to improve to 11-7 overall, 6-1 in league action.
Vista PEAK, under coach Josh Brenning, dropped to 8-8, 4-4.
The Elizabeth victory closely mirrored the same score as when the two last met, 79-52, except with a different winner this time around. The Cardinals got the jump on the Bison in the first quarter, zipping to a 12-3 lead with 4:06 left in the openeing stanza.
However, the Bison went on a run of their own and grabbed the lead by the end of the quarter 18-14. They would also hold a 35-34 halftime lead, behind the 3-point shooting of sophomore JT Johnson-Knoblock.
Leading the way for Elizabeth was sophomore Jacob Gavitt, who would finish the game with 27 points, and senior Cody Steinke, who would score 17.
Elizabeth would fashion a 20-point third quarter while holding Vista PEAK to 11 for a 54-46 lead, then fashion a quick 6-0 run in the fourth for a 60-46 advantage the Bison would not be able to overcome.
"It was good for us to face them knowing that they had beaten Fort Lupton and that we were not going to overlook them," Gavitt said. "They have a good shooter (Johnson-Knoblock) so we didn't have any over confidence. They have improved a lot and certainly have a good future ahead. We finally got our game going, too."
Johnson-Knoblock was certainly effective from the outside for the Bison as he connected on six 3-point baskets to help him finish with 22 points in the game.
"The first half we were hitting and executing, but in the second half we seemed to lose focus," Johnson-Knoblock said. "We were on a five game winning streak and I think we do have the potential get started on another one. We just need to go back to work. It was better than the last time we played them, despite the scores being somewhat similar."
Steinke was quick to praise Vista PEAK for their improvement and knows the Bison, without a junior or senior in the lineup, are becoming forceful.
"They have become a lot better since the first time we played them and they've picked it up," Steinke said. "In the first half we didn't play very well. The key was that we started to hit the three-point baskets and were finally able to go inside with success. They beat Fort Lupton, so we were not coming in overlooking them."
Boss was pleased with the way his team answered the call, but also had praise for the Bison.
"They have gained a lot of confidence and athlete abilities and that's a deadly combination," Boss said. "Our three-balls didn't go in at first, but we did have the answers tonight. In the second half our three's fell and we were able to go inside. Gavitt was strong inside and Cody also came through with a fine game tonight.
"James, with his three-pointers in the third quarter, got us going, too," Boss said. "We had that quick start in the first quarter, yet they came back quick against us. You can tell with that with their talented youth they are going to be a team to watch over the next couple of seasons."
The first half for the Bison was one which Brenning wished they could have continued.
"We had a great first half, but it wasn't the two that we needed," Brenning said. "To get by Fort Lupton was pretty good and the boys are gaining a lot of confidence. In the second half we didn't handle the ball as well and we let up. Overall, the boys are playing well and we hope to continue."
The Elizabeth girls, coached by Jamie Schmalz, easily won their second encounter with Vista PREP with their 56-16 victory. They had beaten the Bison, 64-25 in their first encounter, January 11.
Elizabeth held Vista PEAK scoreless in the first quarter while building a 22-0 lead and led 24-0 in the second before a free-throw by Aaliyah Carter with 4:55 left in the second, broke the drought. The Cardinals would lead 30-7 at the half and 51-10 heading into the final stanza.
Tatum Neubert would lead the way in the scoring department for Elizabeth with 18 points. She would be followed by Clare Nicholas with 10, the only other Cardinal in double-figures. The return of Kaylyn Radtke, who has been out with an injury, helped pick up the defense, also pushed hard by Cheyenne Wendler.
"It's good to be back and playing again," said Radtke, a 5-foot, 7 sophomore. "Overall, I feel that we have been working hard as a team. Vista may be young, but they came out an played us hard, just never seeming to give up. The first quarter was a surprise, but we were working hard."
Said Wendler, a 5-5 senior guard, "We were able to talk a lot on the floor. It was hard to lose to Pueblo South and I think this helps us rebound. Yes, this is a young team that we played, but give them credit, too. They hustled against us and made us play.
"We're having fun in this league," Wendler said. "Our key is that we have to have the ball movement. I like to steal the ball and would like to have more, we'll just have to see how things progress."
Schmalz knew her girls could be in control, but also felt that Vista PEAK has greatly improved over their last meeting.
"They were both fun to watch and Vista has improved a whole lot since we last played them," Schmalz said. "After losing last week to Pueblo South we needed rebuild our confidence. But we've had girls sick and we haven't been a full strength of a few weeks. Getting Kaylyn back is also a big confidence booster."
Despite the score, Vista PEAK's sophomore guard, Aaliya Carter, was pleased with how her teammates have played and improved.
"We were trying to move the ball a lot and have much more motion," Carter said. "We can't focus on the score. Our plan is to play the game in two-minute segments rather than think about quarters and halves. We have to focus on what we do and to learn from our mistakes. We know that we are a young team, but I think we're learning. We just don't want to give up under any circumstances."
The Elizabeth boys, now 13-7 overall and 7-1 in the league, keep the winning streak going beating visiting Fort Morgan last Friday, 58-48. Yet it took some doing in the second quarter as the Cardinals trailed the Mustangs 15-7 after the first quarter. Behind a 21-point night from Gavitt they rebounded to outscore their rival, 21-7 in the second quarter. James Christianson contributed nine points in the win as did Steinke.
Elizabeth plays at Skyview on January 15, then hosts Fort Lupton on the 19th. The Cardinal girls will be at Weld Central on January 12, then host Skyview on the 15th and host Fort Lupton on the 19th.
The Elbert boys, coached by Mac McGuire, had little trouble this past week as the Bulldogs defeated Colorado D&B, 66-24 on Friday then rolled over Hanover, 67-23, on Saturday.
Chance Hendrix was the lone Elbert player to score in double-figures against D&B with 16 points while pulling down five rebounds. However, 10 Bulldogs also managed to make it into the scoring column with Adam Averett, Dakota Hedger and Jacob Miller all scoring eight points.
Elbert pulled off 20 steals in the Bulldogs victory against Hanover. Again, the scoring was spread out with Justin Hood leading the way with 10-points and the lone player in double-figures. Averett, and Bryce Hutchens tallied nine points apiece while Hendrix added eight more. Averett also came through with five blocked shots as the boys improved to 10-4 overall and 3-0 in the Black Forest League.
The Elbert girls, 4-10, 2-1, also came through with a victory against D&B with a 34-8 victory. However, they stumbled against Hanover, losing, 39-37.
The scoring against D&B was spread out with three players, Lauren Pearson, Katie Listill and Jessi Hood all scoring six points. Defensively, the Bulldogs held D&B scoreless in the first quarter and to only one point in the second.
Elbert held a 28-26 lead going into the final quarter against Hanover, but the Bulldogs were outscored 13-9 down the stretch. Logan Franek was the lone player in double-figures with 14 while also pulling down 12 rebounds. Sumiko McDonald scored seven points and Kylee Harris six in the loss.
The Bulldog boys and girls play February 11 at Edison then visit Woodlin on the 16th.
The Kiowa boys, under coach Walter Sutton, couldn't muster the points against Peyton as the Indians fell to defeat, 75-38. However, they were able to rebound Saturday to defeat Colorado Springs School, 47-25. They are now 9-6 overall and 3-3 in the Black Forest League.
Caleb Smith had the best game against Peyton with 13 points and three steals. However, he was the only player to reach double-figures. Isaac Janes and Connor Pearson each scored six points. The Indians knew it was going be a long night after trailing 37-14 at the half.
It was a different story against the Colorado Springs School as they held the Kodiaks scoreless in the second quarter after allowing only seven points in the first. As a result, they built a 26-7 halftime lead then went on to win, 47-25.
The Kiowa girls, 4-9, 1-4, suffered a big loss against Peyton, 80-25 last Friday then fell to Colorado Springs School, 32-31 on Saturday. Samantha was the leading scorer for the Indians against Peyton with 11 points while Madison Zielinski tallied nine against the Colorado Springs School.
"Peyton is strong and they had us down early, 17-5 in the first quarter," said coach Mark Clemmons. "Then we only got three points in the second. We had 27 turnovers in the game. We were putting up shots, just not hitting anything. It just wasn't a good week."
Kiowa hosts Pikes Peak Christian February 15th and Simla on the 16th in boys and girls games.
The girls suffered a big loss against Peyton, 80-25
The Simla boys improved their overall record to 9-4 with Friday's 48-45 victory against Vanguard Christian. But the offense went the other way on Saturday as the Cubs fell to Pikes Peak Christian, 56-52.
Cody Norris led the way with 13 points and eight rebounds against Vanguard while Wyatt Rector chipped in with 10 points and 10 rebounds. The Cubs trailed, 9-4, in the first quarter against Vanguard and 22-19 at the half. But they picked up their defense in the third quarter holding the Coursers to five points.
"The game with Pikes Peak certainly didn't go our way," said coach David Guy. "We were 20-of-58 from the field and four-for-13 at the line. We were up 15-10 in the first quarter, but only scored seven points in the second. It just wasn't our night."
The Simla girls, coached by Al Snyder, suffered their first loss of the year last Friday to Vanguard Christian, 50-39 dropping to 12-1. However, the Cubs came back against Pikes Peak Christian the next night with a 52-13 victory against the undermanned Eagles.
"We led Vanguard 16-10 in the first period, but only had eight second quarter points," Snyder said. "This was a talented team that we were up against and they just pulled us down. We only trailed 26-24 at the half, but the third quarter did us in as we only had nine points, then six in the fourth. It was just a rough night against a very good team. "
Simla hosts Evangelical Christian February 15th then travels to Kiowa on the 16th in both boys and girls games.