Grizzlies garner Great Eight berth
Late basket by Brianna Throop leads ThunderRidge girls
HIGHLANDS RANCH – ThunderRidge’s Brianna Throop was playing with four fouls but never hesitated because she knew her team needed a basket.
Throop completed a 3-point play with 1:31 left in the game, the pivotal moment in ThunderRidge’s 52-49 victory over Continental League rival Castle View in a Class 5A Sweet 16 girls playoff game March 5.
ThunderRidge, a team that was 4-7 early in the season, will take a 17-8 record into the March 7 Great Eight matchup against Arapahoe (23-2) at the Denver Coliseum.
Castle View ended its season with a 15-11 record but the Sabercats had chances to extend their season. Instead Castle View had to watch Throop excite the crowd in the ThunderRidge gym with a clutch, game-ending performance.
Castle View’s 5-foot-6 point guard Kylie Minish was brilliant the entire game and her layup tied it at 47.
That’s when Throop, a 5-7 senior, drove the lane, cashed in a layup and drew a foul. She completed an old-fashioned 3-point play to push ThunderRidge ahead 50-47 with 1:31 still to play in the game.
“At that point, I really didn’t think about getting an offensive foul,” Throop said. “I knew we needed a score. I had to keep that aggressive mentality and attack the rim.”
Castle View, which made 8-of-10 free throws in the final six minutes, closed to within a point on Amy Schmelzer’s two free throws with 1:12 remaining but Throop countered with two points from the charity line with 29.8 seconds to close the scoring.
“Bree had to make that drive, get fouled and make that free throw to get that 3-point lead,” Castle View coach Matt Hema said. “In the end that was probably the difference in the ball game.
“She made a great play. I told our kids, their best player made a heck of a play down the stretch and that was the difference.”
Throop, who has signed to play at Long Beach State, finished with a game-high 19 points, with 17 in the second half.
“The first half was a little shaky,” Throop admitted. “I was a little tight. The second half I realized what I needed to do to help my team. I was definitely more aggressive in the second half.”
ThunderRidge coach Bill Bradley shuffled Throop on and off the floor in the fourth quarter because of her foul trouble but she was always in the middle of the action when it counted.
“She played really well,” Bradley said. “She was on the attack and she’s really grown up. She’s more than happy to pick our team up and put them on her back and say ‘let’s go.’ And, you need that out of a point guard.”
Castle View, which lost 50-36 to ThunderRidge Feb. 19, had an 11 point lead in the second quarter as the Grizzlies made only 22.7 percent of their field goal attempts in the first half.
“They are a much better basketball team,” Braid said of the Sabercats. “Coach Hema has done a great job with those kids. We didn’t shoot particularly well and made some uncharacteristic turnovers.
“We are 13-1 in our last 14 games but it’s just about playing one more game. We played Arapahoe in the third game of the year. I’m sure they are a different game and we are a different team.”
Arapahoe defeated ThunderRidge 50-38 on Dec. 6 and Throop said, “We just got to keep working and get revenge on Arapahoe.”
Minish wound up with 17 points for the Sabercats.
“Kylie played well defensively, offensively, handled the ball against pressure and made free throws down the stretch when we had to keep it close,” said Hema. “She was pretty impressive.
“We have our starting group back, our sixth and seventh man kind of a deal off the bench so we are certainly excited about next year. But, it’s tough to think about that right now. It would have been nice to make a trip of the Coliseum.”