Eagles soar over Lady Spartans

By Dan Karpiel
The Surveyor

Berthoud’s Taylor Armitage steps to the free throw line during the Dec. 18 game vs. Thompson Valley at BHS. Karen Fate / The Surveyor

Berthoud’s Taylor Armitage steps to the free throw line during the Dec. 18 game vs. Thompson Valley at BHS.
Karen Fate / The Surveyor

No matter how good a team is – and the Berthoud High School (BHS) girls basketball team is a pretty good one – it is very difficult to overcome the absence of your best player.

Playing without 2013-14 Tri-Valley Conference Player of the Year Kristina Cavey, the Lady Spartans dropped their third-straight game on Dec. 18, ending up on the short end of a 44-38 final to Thompson Valley in the BHS gym. It is an uncharacteristically long losing streak for a Berthoud squad accustomed to playing winning basketball.

For Berthoud Head Coach Randy Earl, the answer to what is ailing the Lady Spartans is simple – a lack of offense.

“We just have to get better offensively,” Earl said. “We have to shoot it better and we have to handle the ball better…we’re just not shooting it very well.”

The Lady Spartans made good on just 13 of 33 field goal attempts on the night and have shot a paltry 33 percent in the early throes of the season; a mark well below the 40-percent mark the team turned in from the floor last year when Berthoud ended the season as TVC co-champions.

Berthoud struggled from the get-go as the Lady Eagles jumped out to an early six-zip lead, thanks to a pair from downtown, courtesy of Aliciya Nava. Another trey from Maddy Dickens and a sextet of Berthoud turnovers, most of which were forced by a stifling full-court press employed by Thompson Valley, eventually ended the period with visitors boasting a nine-point advantage, 18-9.

“They were pressing us full court, and that’s always a problem for us,” Earl said, “There were bad decisions, we were rushing and things, and we have some inexperience at the varsity level.”

The Lady Eagles attempted 20 shots in the first period to Berthoud’s six, with the Lady Spartans failing to make good on a field goal until just 2:55 remained in the opening period. A five-of-six effort from the charity stripe by Berthoud standout Taylor Armitage helped mitigate the damage, yet the Eagles’ advantage forced Berthoud to play catch-up.

The Thompson Valley pressure continued to give Berthoud fits as the Lady Spartans committed three turnovers in the first two minutes of the second period.

“Honestly, you have to give it to them, they had a very good press,” Armitage said after the game.

Berthoud was able to battle back in the closing minutes of the first half, assembling a 6-0 run with buckets from Armitage, Audrey Kouns and Sarah Howard that cut the Lady Eagles’ lead to just five, 26-21, as the teams adjourned to the locker rooms at halftime.

Thompson Valley did not lay off the press in the second half and were able to frustrate Berthoud’s efforts to simply in-bound the ball, forcing three five-second violations in the second half. Despite its struggles, Berthoud never gave up, and a gem of a game from Armitage – 26 points and six rebounds – kept the Lady Spartans close until a late 6-0 run from Thompson Valley sealed the visitor’s victory.

Armitage’s 26 points led all players, while Nava (18) and Dickens (13) topped the box score for Thompson Valley. Howard added another eight points for Berthoud, and Maria Fate continued to dominate off the glass by pulling down a game-high eight boards.

Despite their recent struggles, Armitage sees plenty to like from her team.

“I’m pleased with the amount of maturity and our communication,” Armitage said. “We’ve grown an awful lot. We all played as a team, that’s something that we’ve been working on and that came through tonight. Maybe the scoreboard didn’t show it, but we’re all proud of ourselves tonight.”

After the holiday break, Berthoud (5-4) hosts Erie (6-1) in the opening game of Tri-Valley Conference play on Jan. 6.