Colorado Springs Christian School girls' basketball rides big run to state semifinal return

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DENVER • The fourth-seeded Colorado Springs Christian School started Thursday’s Class 3A girls’ basketball quarterfinal in a seven-point hole. A dominant first-half stretch helped the Lions finish the game with an empty bench and a 52-37 win over No. 5 Centauri at University of Denver’s Hamilton Gym.

A banked 3-pointer and two transition layups saw the Falcons score the first seven points in the first couple minutes.

“I was scared to death,” CSCS coach Mark Engesser said.

The Lions' junior tandem of Rachel Ingram and Megan Engesser took over from there, as the Lions got the Falcons into an up-and-down affair.

After a Virginia McGrath free throw, Ingram hit consecutive 3-pointers to tie the game. Engesser then hit her first to give CSCS its first lead at 10-7 with 2:35 left in the quarter before Ingram added a three-point play.

Engesser stretched the run to 16-0 with another 3-pointer to open the second quarter. Abby Knedler and Engesser added two more 3-pointers, as the Lions took a 30-16 halftime lead. In addition to the hot shooting, CSCS used a swarming defense to hold the Falcons to nine points in the final 13-plus minutes of the first half.

“We just played so hard,” Mark Engesser said. “We sprinted everywhere and we were so frantic on defense, they just couldn’t handle the pace.”

Ingram’s fourth 3-pointer capped a 7-0 CSCS run to start the second half, which saw the Lions go up by 20 points en route to a comfortable win and a return to the state semifinals.

Engesser (13) and Ingram (17) combined for 30 of the Lions’ 52 points and hit 7 of 8 3-pointers, while Katie McGrath added nine points.

Melissa Wilson scored 13 points for Centauri, while Caroline Van Berkum added 10. Ember Canty, the Falcons’ 6-foot-3 forward grabbed 18 rebounds but was limited to two points on 1 of 8 shooting.

The Lions are on to a Friday semifinal against Moffat County, the No. 8 seed which knocked off No. 1 Kent Denver earlier Thursday.

After falling to Lamar in the 2017 championship game, the Lions feel better their second time on the biggest stage.

“I was terrified. I remember last year, I was just shaking my first game,” Ingram said. “I could not focus, but this game it was just like I was ready to go. I just want to win the championship.”

“Last time, we didn’t really know what to expect, but this time we know what to expect,” Megan Engesser said. “And we want to win.”

Mysterious Moffat County

Speaking just after his team downed Centauri, the CSCS coach wasn’t sure what to expect from Friday’s opponent.

He didn’t watch the Bulldogs beat Kent Denver, but his assistants did.

“I heard they rebound pretty well,” Engesser said. “That’s all I heard.”

The CSCS coach planned to watch the game film when he got back to his hotel room Thursday night.

The Lions and Bulldogs’ only shared opponent is Grand Valley. CSCS won 77-34 in its opener, while Moffat County owned 12- and 9-point wins over Grand Valley.

Moffat County held the Sun Devils to just two points in the first half. Brooke Gumer, at 6-foot-1, scored 12 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for the Bulldogs, while Jana Camilletti added 12 points and six rebounds.

St. Mary’s, the three seed, beat No. 6 Cedaredge 64-33 in an earlier quarterfinal Thursday. No. 2 Pagosa Springs and 10th-seeded Lamar met later Thursday for the right to play the Pirates.