After a long day on the basketball floor, and no victories to show for it, confidence can be a very elusive topic.
For the Southern Colorado-South Central Elite, pool play on Saturday at the Colorado’s Finest Exhibition was a sobering journey, with three losses threatening to spoil the mood. But coming in as a low seed in Sunday’s bracket action became a rallying cry, and the Elite (a 15u team playing up for the occasion) rumbled to the top 16u title with a 56-43 victory over BC Denver at Regis University fieldhouse in Denver.
Sunday began with a 52-41 victory over No. 1 seed Rocky Mountain Hoops; in the semis, the Elite won 56-48 over Parker Premier U15. The championship game saw the Elite fully executing its game plan, jumping ahead 17-7 after one quarter and never losing at least a double-digit lead the rest of the way.
The BC Denver squad had to turn around and play the final maybe 10 minutes after their semifinal win (46-44 over Clutch-Rose), and the Elite pounced on the advantage of being more rested.
“It was mental toughness; we didn’t come out ready to play (Saturday). Once we figured out we are a 15u team and a little bit younger, we had to come out with a different mentality of toughness to hang with them,” said South Central Elite coach Cory Louther. “It’s not about skill, because we are skilled. When we bring the mental toughness, we can hang with teams that play a tough brand of basketball.
“The approach was, they were a lot bigger than us, and since they had just come off a game, they wanted to pound it inside. We went 2-3 zone, extended it, allowed no 3’s, and if they hit a two-point shot we were OK with that. But on the long rebounds we were already extended, and we got out and ran.”
Kate Gallery, a freshman, scored 11 points for the Elite in the first quarter, showing much enthusiasm for sprinting to the rim and knowing precisely when to make the cut to the rim for an open look. She finished with 22 points and eight rebounds.
“(Saturday) was not like us; we didn’t have our mojo like we normally have. Today, we came in with a chip on our shoulder, knowing we were going to be underestimated,” Gallery said. “We knew (BC Denver) had just had a hard game, so running them helped us out. It felt really good, and it gave us relief to know we could get out and score and not fall behind 14-0 like we did (Saturday).”
“Kate is super skilled, tall and plays the guard position, skilled with both hands who can take it to the hole and shoot it,” Louther said. “She’s got a lot of potential.”
The South Central Elite is made up primarily of players from Pueblo West and Canon City high schools. Madelyn Ley had nine points for the Elite, and Gabby Louther and Sydnee Smith each added eight points.
BC Denver got 11 points from Payton Sterk; Savitri Jackson had nine points, scoring seven straight in the final two minutes of the third quarter.