Meeker girls fall in semifinal game and claim fourth

MEEKER — It wasn’t the finish the Meeker girls’ basketball team had hoped for, but their coach was still pleased with her team’s accomplishment.
“I’m extremely proud of our girls making it to the final four,” Coach Hallie Blunt said of her team’s fourth-place finish in the 2009 Colorado State Basketball Championships last weekend in Massari Arena, on the campus of Colorado State University of Pueblo.
“I think it was an outstanding accomplishment,” Blunt said.
In order to make it to the final four, the Meeker girls had to win their first game of the state tournament, something they were unable to do when they last qualified. Meeker did get past the first hurdle with a 54-49 win over Burlington.
“We had a good scouting report on Burlington,” Blunt said. “The girls practiced well and were focused. I had told Deb (Cook) and Jamie (Rogers) before we left that the girls looked confident and could surprise some people.”
Meeker surprised the Burlington Cougars by jumping out to an 8-2 lead, before the Cougars started pressing to tie the game, but senior Marki Cook hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to break the first quarter tie.
Senior Janae Kindall and junior Stacey Fitzgibbons each scored six points in the first quarter and each added more in the second. Cook scored nine of her 19 points in the second quarter and Meeker led 30-23 at halftime.
“The girls came out and went after them,” Blunt said.
Meeker kept their lead in the third and survived a run by Burlington in the fourth to win the game.
Kindall finished with 20 points, Cook had 19 and Fitzgibbons scored 11. Senior Sydney Cook finished with three and Megan Ridings made a free throw to help the lady Cowboys advance.
Meeker would tipoff against the defending state champion and No. 1 seeded Wray Eagles in the semifinals. The Eagles entered the tournament with a 23-1 record, their only loss coming to a team from Kansas, early in the season.
Meeker went after the defending state champs and took a 16-13 lead after the first quarter, with points coming from Kindall, Fitzgibbons and Cook. Both teams scored 12 points in the second quarter, with Meeker keeping its three-point lead going into the second half. The Cougars outscored Meeker 11-10 in the third quarter, allowing the Lady Cowboys to hold their lead going into the final eight minutes.
The Cougars capitalized on a few Meeker turnovers in the final quarter, to take the lead, which they held on to, to win 52-49.
“It was an incredible game,” Blunt said of the semifinals. “The girls gave their all and played with heart. We were just a few seconds away from playing in the championship game.”
Marki Cook led the team with 18 points, Kindall had 12, Fitzgibbons nine, while Sydney Cook and Ridings each added five.
The loss dropped Meeker into the consolation championship against familiar league foe Hayden. The league qualified three teams for the state tournament, and all three advanced to the final four, with Paonia losing to Wray in the championship game.
“I think that says a lot about our league,” Blunt said.
It was the fourth time this season Meeker and Hayden played against each other and Hayden came out ahead for a third time with a 42-40 win.
“It wasn’t the outcome I was expecting,” Blunt said of the final contest. “We didn’t have our game. We played with everything Friday, and I believe that is when we peaked. We didn’t play good ball against Hayden and we still had a chance to win. All you can ask for is a chance. Hayden did a good job though, and I commend them.”
Meeker will graduate seven seniors, including the Cook girls, Kindall, Ridings, Kelsey Kendall, Kelsey Rundberg and Rachel Smith.
“The seniors set a great example of leadership and perseverance,” Blunt said. “We got beat early and had to overcome some adversity, but the kids kept working hard and we peaked on Friday.”
All the underclassmen, including juniors Fitzgibbons, Timbre Shriver and Morgan Neilson and sophomores Elissa McLaughlin and Rebecca de Vergie will be the nucleus for next year’s team.
“Deb and Jamie did a great job with the JV and freshman teams and everyone got a little experience, which is huge to get the confidence that you can go out there and do it,” Blunt said.
Post-season honors were given to Kindall and Marki Cook, who were chosen to play in upcoming state games, and Blunt was nominated by her peers to coach one of the teams in each of the all-state games.