Girls win district to host regional

Yuma High School girls basketball team is home again for regional, this time hoping for a different outcome.

“There are no more free games,” head coach Jeremy Robinson said. “We’ve been here before, so let’s take the next step and move past regional.”

The Outlaws won district last weekend at Manual High School for the second straight year, so they will once again be hosting regional. Last season they lost in the Sweet 16 to a Grand Valley team that was upset in its district and ended up making the trip to Yuma instead of hosting its own regional.

There are no such teams in Yuma’s Region 5 this weekend, but it still is going to be a challenge.

The Outlaws, 13-8, ended up as the fifth seed in the 32-team regional. They have won four straight. They will play at 4:30 p.m. Friday against a familiar foe in 28th-seed Brush. Yuma won 53-28 at Brush in December. The Beetdiggers are 8-14 but come to town after winning their last two games in their district tournament last weekend, though they were against Frontier Academy and Wellington teams that finished in the 40s in the final 3A CHSAA Selection & Seeding Index.

“That coach has done a nice job,” Robinson said of Brush first-year coach Maddy Rule. “They’ve won eight games, and at least they’re beating the bad teams instead of losing to them.”

Montezuma-Cortez, the 12th-seed with an 11-10 record, and Meeker, the 21st-seed with a 10-10 record, will make long trips to Yuma to play in the 7:30 p.m. regional semifinal, Friday.

The winners will meet in the Sweet 16 at 1 p.m. Saturday. The winner of that will advance to the 3A Great 8 next week in Hamilton Gymnasium on the Denver University campus.

“I thought we would be the sixth seed, but moving up to the fifth seed was a big bonus,” Robinson said. “Now we have to take advantage of it.”

It wasn’t always pretty, but the bottom line is the Outlaws won their district tournament once again.

It began last Friday afternoon with a 44-30 win over Prospect Ridge Academy.

After a slow start, the Outlaws ran off 17 straight points in the second for a 24-6 lead, but the Miners closed the quarter on a 7-2 run to cut Yuma’s lead to 26-13 at halftime.

That was about as close as they could get, though, as the Outlaws kept the lead in double digits throughout the second half. They led by as much as 18, 42-24, in the fourth quarter.

Yuma had one its better shooting games recently, hitting 45 percent from the floor and making six of eight at the charity stripe. The Outlaws did most of their damage from closer in as they made 16 of 29 (55 percent) on 2-pointers. They made just two of 11 behind the arc.

Alina Moran had 13 points, three rebounds and three steals, Ashley Ibanez five points and three rebounds, Taryn Sheffield five points, Caddis Robinson four points and three assists, Berkley Nighswonger four oints and three rebounds, Emma Rayl three points and four assists, Jade Lungwitz two points and four assists, Bailey Nighswonger two points and two rebounds, Carolina Ross two points and two assists, Jailyn Mekelburg two points, Elizabeth Mendoza two points, and Aubrey Black two rebounds and two steals.

The Outlaws were back in the Thunderdome later Saturday afternoon for the district final against St. Mary’s Academy, who beat Forge Christian in the other semifinal on Friday.

Yuma claimed the district title with a 37-26 win.

Like the day before, the Outlaws had a slow start in the first quarter, but took control with a strong second quarter. They opened with a 10-0 run for a 15-4 lead and led 18-7 at halftime.

Most of their scoring came at the charity stripe, making 10 in the first half as SMA’s physical style took any flow out of the game.

The Wildcats scored the first five points in the third, but the Outlaws pushed the lead back to 10, again mostly from the free-throw line.

Yuma did not shoot a single free throw in the fourth as the Outlaws went on an 11-2 run to push the lead to as much as 15 before settling for an 11-point win.

“They were a better team than they were last year,” Robinson said of the Wildcats. “They just couldn’t score.”

Yuma shot just 26 percent, as did SMA. The Outlaws made 14 of 22 at the charity stripe, while the Wildcats shot just seven free throws, making five. SMA made just one of 18 3-pointers, while Yuma made three of 13.

Sheffield had nine points and four rebounds, Robinson six points and six rebounds, Moran six points and six rebounds, Lungwitz six points and four rebounds, Berkley Nighswonger five points and two rebounds, Ibanez three points and nine rebounds, Mekelburg two points and three rebounds, Rayl five rebounds and two assists, Bailey Nighswonger three steals, and Black two assists. Wendy Garcia also played.

While not beautiful basketball, the Outlaws enter regional on a four-game winning streak.

“Maybe that’s just who we are now,” Robinson said. “We’re not playing the cleanest basketball but at least we are winning at this time of year. Maybe we went through the slump and are headed back up the hill.”