THORNTON - The Horizon girls basketball team have started 2013 with a bang.
After starting the season 3-4, the Hawks opened the Front Range League by winning three of their first four games- including a 66-37 throttling of Mountain Range on Friday.
“League, we just want to take care of it,” said Horizon’s point guard Gabby Jimenez. “It’s really big for us, especially since we didn’t start off too well.”
The Hawks dropped back-to-back contests to ThunderRidge and Regis Jesuit earlier this season. They also lost two games at the Nike tournament of Champions in Phoenix before Christmas.
However, since starting league play they have outscored their opponents by an average of 14 points. And much of the success is due to their defense.
On Friday, the Hawks went to their full-court press and forced Mountain Range into 17 first-half turnovers and held the Mustangs to only 11 points at the half.
“If anything (our defense) gets us going,” Horizon coach Greg Hahn said. “We’re still in the beginning stages of it; it isn’t where I want it to be.”
The defense allowed Horizon to jump out to an early 16-3 advantage after the first quarter, the Hawks pushed their advantage to 20 points in the second quarter after Alyssa Rader scored three points the old fashion way.
Kaylie Rader took over in the second half, scoring six of Horizon’s first eight points. Mountain Range did end the third quarter on a 7-2 run after the Rader sisters got in foul trouble. However, Hahn inserted Jimenez to crush the rally.
“We knew that is what we needed to do this week,” Hahn said. “This league is so evenly balanced so we have to play hard every game.”
Kaylie Rader had a game-high 14 points, while Alyssa Rader added 13 and Jimenez had 11 points and seven assists. Kaleigh Paplow had seven steals.
Hope Martinez had 13 points to lead the Mustangs, who have dropped their first three FRL games after starting the season 7-0.
“Our league night in and night out is tough,” said Mountain Range coach Chyrisse Domenico. “My kids play hard, they do the right things. But we just aren’t shooting the ball well. Bottom line, you can play great defense but if you can’t make a basket you aren’t going to win.”