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Bye, bye Mustangs

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By Chaz Hudd

It was Senior Night at Evergreen High School Feb. 22 and the Cougars’ three honorees made sure it would be a very fond memory. Megan Hodson, Kimmy Baroch and Tricia Oakes fueled a furious third quarter rally and led the Cougars to a 54-40 victory over Class 4A Jefferson County League rival Ralston Valley.

The win had strong implications for Evergreen, clinching a second place finish in league play behind undefeated Golden. Further, the triumph earned the Cougars a first-round bye in the 4A state tournament that begins this week, as well as a home game in the second round.

“Ending the league season like this, and on Senior Night is just amazing,” said Evergreen senior center Tricia Oakes, who topped all scorers with 24 points. “There is nothing like it. I just can’t stop smiling.”

Ralston Valley, who came in ranked seventh in 4A with an 18-4 record (8-1 in league play), forced a dozen first half turnovers in moving out to a 25-19 halftime lead.

Evergreen (15-8 overall, 9-1 Jeffco) roared back after the break. Megan Hodson sank three consecutive field goals to open the third quarter, and a bucket by Baroch gave the home team its first lead since 2-0 at 27-25. The Cougars poured it on, outscoring the Mustangs 22-4 to take a 41-29 advantage into the fourth quarter.

Hodson, a 6-foot-1 forward scored eight points during the stanza while Baroch and Oakes added six and five, respectively.

“The seniors just made up their minds at halftime that they weren’t going to lose this game,” said an elated Evergreen coach Ali Johnston. “We did a better job of getting the ball into Tricia and that opened up the offense for everyone. We started knocking down our shots and the defense created easier points in transition.”

Consecutive field goals by Oakes stretched the Evergreen lead to 46-31 early in the fourth quarter. The Colgate-bound senior notched 11 points in the session as the Mustangs were never able to mount a serious threat down the stretch. Ralston Valley went over the foul limit early in the quarter, and Evergreen hit their free throws and pulled away for the vital 54-40 victory.

In addition to her 24 points, Oakes pulled down 10 rebounds and blocked six shots, including four in a two-minute span of the final quarter. Hodson scored 11 points and snared eight rebounds. Baroch had a fine all-around game with nine points, 11 rebounds and five steals.

Sophomore Grace Beaudin chipped in with eight points, Katie Helf added two and Hayley Stading, Kate Oakes and Jen Schulte contributed strong ball handling and defense to the cause.

“Even though we were behind by six we never got down,” Tricia Oakes said of the comeback effort. “We knew we were the better team. Megan (Hodson) stepped up and made some crucial shots and played like an All-Star. I am so proud of how we played in our last league game.”

Evergreen earned a first-round bye and No. 3 seed in the Tracy Hill Region of the 4A state tournament. Widefield (15-8) and Jefferson (9-14) meet in the first round Feb. 27, with the winner advancing to face the Cougars at 1 p.m. March 1 at Evergreen High School.

“I’ve coached Tricia, Kimmy and Megan since eighth grade,” said Johnston of her senior trio. “The transformation they’ve made as players has been very exciting to see, but the type of people they’ve become is even more rewarding. I am very proud of them, and thrilled that senior night worked out so well for them.”