Yuma girls keep climbing the ladder

Yuma High School’s girls basketball team seems to be on to something in the 2022-23 season.
Yuma entered this week on an eight-game winning streak, sitting at 8-2 overall, and 4-0 in the Lower Platte heading into this past Tuesday’s rescheduled home game against Limon. They then put on a second-half clinic with a 53-34 win over the Badgers, improving to 9-2.

“I have had a lot of people tell me how much fun they are to watch,” coach Jeremy Robinson said. “I am super happy for the girls. They deserve it.”
Yuma entered this week in lofty company, sitting at No. 2 in the Class 3A RPI, and up to No. 4 in the 3A Top 10 in the coaches’ poll following last Friday’s 59-49 win in The Pit against rival Wray.
However, Robinson warned the former Indians have a lot of work left to do in the final month of the regular season. After hosting a tough Limon team this past Tuesday, they traveled to Sidney, Nebraska, on Wednesday to take on a Red Raiders squad that was sitting at 16-1. They travel to Wiggins on Friday to face Tigers team that is 9-5 overall and 2-1 in the Lower Platte and No. 2 in the 2A RPI behind only fellow-Lower Platte team Merino.
They then host the 3A Strasburg Indians (the school has had an agreement with an American Indian tribe for several years), on Tuesday.
Upcoming games in February include a home tilt with undefeated Peyton, No. 1 in the 3A RPI, on February 15, as well as 2A No. 1 Merino, and a tough Sedgwick County squad next Thursday.
“They have to come to play every game,” Robinson said.
Yuma has been getting it done with a full-time aggression, which in turn is leading to several run-out baskets.
“Defensively, they have finally brought into what we have talked about for the last two years,” Robinson said. “…There is a fine line between being super aggressive and fouling. Early on we were putting the other team at the line too much. You can’t have the other team in the bonus early in the second quarter. We have gotten better at that.”
Yuma lost badly at Wray in the season opener in December. The former Indians also have struggled scoring early in games even during the current winning streak.
However, they finally came out scorching last Friday before a big crowd in The Pit, scoring 22 points in the first quarter to set the tone for a convincing win over their long-time rival.
Yuma took a 5-0 lead, but Wray scored the next five points. Yuma took a 9-5 lead, but Wray came back to twice lead by one.
However, six different players scored as Yuma finished the first quarter on a flurry, capped by Emma Rayl’s 3-pointer, for a 22-14 lead.
After Yuma’s hot start, though, the team scored only six points in the second quarter, and Wray still is one of the best teams in 2A, trailing just 28-23 at halftime.
Lyndsey Mekelburg scored six straight early in the third for a 36-25 Yuma lead, but Wray came right back with a 9-0 run to make it 36-34.
However, Liddy Day then went off from deep, making three straight 3-pointers to push the lead back to double digits.
Yuma led by as much as 17 in the fourth before settling for the 10-point rivalry win.
“I don’t nave any one person I can complain about how they played in that game,” Robinson said. “Everyone contributed.”
Three seniors came up big in the win. Lea Richardson was all over the place and was unstoppable at the rim, finishing with 17 points and two rebounds. Day made four from deep, finishing with 12 points. Lyndsey Mekelburg made an impact in all phases, finishing with seven points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals. Junior Emma Rayl finished with eight points, five assists and five steals, classmate Jailyn Mekelburg five points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals, junior Ashley Ibanez four points, sophomore Jade Lungwitz four points and three steals, and Alina Moran two points and one each of rebound, assist and steal.
Amazingly, Yuma won rather convincingly over Wray without Caddis Robinson scoring a single point. However, the junior still made her presence felt with eight rebounds, five steals and three assists.
“The mind is a powerful thing,” Robinson said. “These girls are starting to believe in what we want to do. That’s a big part of it.”
Yuma then took on a big and strong Limon squad expected to contend in 2A, Tuesday night in The Pit.
The teams put on an entertaining first half. Yuma led 15-7 late in the first quarter, but the Badgers battled with their size and eventually took a 28-26 lead by halftime.
However, Yuma then put on a defensive clinic in the second half, holding Limon to six points and pushing the Badgers to the point of frustration.
Conversely, Limon kept insisting on pressing full court, and the former Indians continuously took advantage with break-away layups.
The end result was a 27-6 Yuma advantage in the second half, and the team’s ninth straight win. Plus, Yuma did it with Richardson, the team’s leading scorer and defensive pest, spending considerable time on the bench in foul trouble. She eventually fouled out in the fourth.
Unofficial stats show Rayl led the way with 12 points and four assists, Robinson (who opened the game with two 3-pointers) 11 points, six rebounds and four steals, Richardson nine points and four steals, Ibanez eight points and five rebounds, L. Mekelburg six points and three rebounds, Day three points and two rebounds, J. Mekelburg two points, three rebounds and three steals, and Moran two points and three rebounds.