Second-half slump seals Mesa Ridge's fate in girls' basketball playoff against Pueblo West

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PUEBLO - A cold spell on offense and a potent Pueblo West backcourt were too much for the Mesa Ridge Grizzlies to overcome in a season-ending loss Friday in the 4A state quarterfinals.

Junior guard Olivia Lough and freshman backcourt partner Hanna Simental combined for 42 points to power the second-seeded Cyclones to a 58-48 win over No. 7 Mesa Ridge on Friday night at Pueblo Central High School.

The game turned against the visiting Grizzlies (21-5) during a six-minute cold spell that allowed the Cyclones (23-3) to pull away with an 18-2 run. That spurt turned a 27-22 Mesa Ridge lead with 5:09 left in the third into a 40-29 Pueblo West advantage with 5:56 left in the fourth.

With only junior Chloe Welch (game-high 25 points) scoring consistently, the 11-point margin was too big for the smaller Grizzlies.

"We really struggled shooting the ball tonight," Mesa Ridge coach Jeff Beatty said. "We did a good job boxing out but it seemed like every loose ball bounced to them. Chloe had quite a few points but it didn't seem like we got many points from anyone else. It's tough to win that way. "

Simental scored eight of her team-high 23 points during a frantically paced first that saw a lot of end-to-end action and a 15-13 Pueblo West lead by quarter's end.

Welch tried to bring the Grizzlies back with drive after drive to the basket late in the fourth, but Lough and Simental's ability to beat the Mesa Ridge press spoiled any hopes of a comeback. Lough scored seven of her 19 from the free-throw line in the fourth to clinch the Cyclones' 11th-straight victory.

The result will be a learning experience for the inexperienced Grizzlies, Beatty said. The team had only three seniors: Angelica Littlehawk (two points), Brittanie Olsen (three points) and Sommer Sigala (two points).

"We were still playing well defensively until we started fouling late to try to get it back down," Beatty said. "But they hit their free throws so that wasn't too effective either. It's tough to win when you don't hit shots."