Ralston Valley girls hoops get defensive in playoff opener

Dennis Pleuss
Jeffco Public Schools
Posted 2/28/23

ARVADA — Ralston Valley’s girls basketball team seemed to put a lid on whichever basket Horizon was shooting at Feb. 21.

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Ralston Valley girls hoops get defensive in playoff opener


ARVADA — Ralston Valley’s girls basketball team seemed to put a lid on whichever basket Horizon was shooting at Feb. 21.

The No. 13-seeded Mustangs (17-8 record) held No. 20 Horizon (15-8) to 5 points in the first, second and fourth quarters, including not giving up a field goal in the final quarter. 

Ralston Valley grabbed a 44-28 victory to punch its ticket to the round of 16 in the Class 6A state tournament.

“Our game plan going in was take away (Natalie Thornton and Morgan Ives),” Ralston Valley coach Amy Bahl said. “We wanted to put more attention on them because they are the heartbeat of their offense. If we could stop that a little bit they struggle.”

Horizon’s junior guards came on combining for more than 25 points per game. Thornton was held to 5 points and Ives to 7 points. 

Ralston Valley on the other hand came out hot with a 10-0 run in the first quarter that opened up an early 13-2 lead. Seniors Finley Timon, Elysaa Cardella, along with freshman Sammi Madden each had a 3-pointer in the first four minutes.

“Coach (Bahl) always says we have to start out strong. That last few games haven’t been super strong in the shooting,” Cardella said. “This game we came out shooting well. It was awesome.”

The Mustangs were held under 30 points in their regular-season finale Feb. 18, a 35-29 loss to Doherty.

“I’ve been telling our girls that they are capable of knocking down those shots,” Bahl said of the Mustangs making their first three 3-pointers. “They were confident, came up and made them.”

Cardella poured in a game-high 18 points, including going 5-for-6 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. Junior Sophia Sabus had 9 points all after halftime to help the Mustangs to the first-round win.

“There is a direct correlation there,” Bahl said of Cardella’s big night offensively. “She goes we go. We feed off that. She can been a force. We need her to be a force and when she is good things happen.”

The first-round playoff game was a rematch from an early-season game. Ralston Valley defeated Horizon 64-52 during the Best in the Nest Tournament hosted by Horizon. The Mustangs outscored the Hawks 20-10 in the final quarter to pull away.

Ralston Valley had the task of going on the road and facing No. 4 Monarch on Friday, Feb. 24, in the round of 16. The Coyotes (24-1) were on a 17-game winning streak after defeating Mullen 60-42 in the opening round.

“We played them before so we know each other well,” Cardella said of Monarch. “We didn’t have a super good game against them. Hopefully it goes better.”

Monarch defeated Ralston Valley 48-35 on Jan. 6.

It went a little better for the Mustangs, but not good enough. Monarch took a 54-48 victory over Ralston Valley to advance to the Great 8 this week and the Denver Coliseum.

No. 1 Valor was the only 6A Jeffco League team to advance to the state quarterfinals. The Eagles defeated Mountain Vista and Legend to make the Great 8. No. 16 Arvada West, No. 24 Columbine and No. 31 Chatfield saw their seasons come to an end with first-round playoff losses.

Dennis Pleuss is the sports information director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com.

Ralston Valley, basketball, high school sports


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