Verrado struggles to rebound in playoff loss

Casey Pritchard's picture
IMANI CRAWFORD-KING, left, of Verrado battles for the ball Feb. 9 with Centennial’s Ashley Lifgren. The Lady Vipers closed a double-digit deficit to two points in the fourth quarter, but lost 69-56. View photo by Mike Rincon
IMANI CRAWFORD-KING, left, of Verrado battles for the ball Feb. 9 with Centennial’s Ashley Lifgren. The Lady Vipers closed a double-digit deficit to two points in the fourth quarter, but lost 69-56. View photo by Mike Rincon

Lady Vipers make it close in 4th before succumbing to Centennial

Verrado’s girls basketball team beat Centennial during the regular season, but it couldn’t match the result Feb. 9 during a 5A state playoff play-in game.

The Lady Vipers got severely out rebounded, leading to multiple offensive possessions for Centennial, and lost 69-56 on the road.

We’re not one of the biggest teams size wise — I think we have the biggest heart out there — and second-, third-chance points, they hurt us,” Verrado coach Vernon Beard said. “We fought. The issue, our bench is so short, and our freshman goes down with a concussion, some calls didn’t go our way — there were some questionable calls, that’s part of the game — it’s hard to overcome all of that.”

Verrado led in the early stages, but Centennial took a 10-8 advantage on a Laura Turczyn put-back basket at the 1:29 mark of the first quarter, and the Lady Coyotes never trailed again.

Veronica Enriquez had a great start for Verrado, scoring 11 of the team’s first 14 points. That included a 3-pointer and her making all six free throws she attempted. In fact, the Lady Vipers were 12 of 14 from the free-throw line in the first half, helping keep them in the game.

Verrado trailed 35-27 at halftime, and fell behind 47-33 with a little more than two minutes to go in the third quarter. However, Verrado ended the stanza on a 12-2 run, cutting the lead to 49-45. Four different players contributed points during that stretch, including Aliza Zuniga, who hit a 3. Beard credited his team’s defense to helping turn things around.

Our offense is our defense,” he said. “We turned it up a notch, started getting up, trapping really well, tried to speed them up,” Beard said. “It worked, we got back into the game, but again, our Achilles heel hit us with the lack of rebounding. That’s on me. I need to teach better boxing out drills. That’s my fault.”

Eboni Johnson scored inside to start the fourth quarter, making it 49-47. However, Nicole Castellanos went out with a concussion after she was whistled for an offensive charging foul, and the Lady Vipers never got any closer.

We fought,” Beard said. “We were down eight at half, got down 14, cut it to four. Start of the fourth quarter we’re down two, Nicole goes out, and they still worked hard. The game wasn’t over until about 30 seconds left in the game. From a coach’s standpoint, it’s bittersweet with the season being over, but look at what my seniors did, they went out and fought their bleep off.”

Centennial went on a 10-0 run after Verrado had cut it to two points, but the Lady Vipers once again battled back, scoring the next six points to make it 59-53 with 2:40 remaining. Unfortunately for Verrado, it only scored three points the rest of the way.

We fought all night long,” Beard said. “We took everything they had and stumbled, but we never fell down. The effort, man, it never felt like this game was over. We needed one break and it’s our game, and it just didn’t happen. Whether it was a call here that we didn’t get, or a missed rebound, but it wasn’t from lack of effort. They gave it their all … We did a lot of good things, we just didn’t do enough good things.”

In addition to struggling on the glass, Verrado also had issues with its transition defense. Players would lose their assignments on the way down the court, leading to easy buckets for Centennial. At one point, Beard called timeout to refocus his girls on that principle.

I think young people sometimes get a little excited, we made a bucket and instead of getting back into [defense], we’re celebrating and we miss an assignment,” Beard said. “We called timeout and talked about it, made an adjustment. They’re kids. I’m 46 and I miss assignments from time to time, too.”

First meeting

The first time Verrado and Centennial met, the Lady Vipers came away with a 59-55 victory at Verrado. This time, the Lady Vipers were unable to repeat the winning performance.

I take my hat off to Centennial, they played a good basketball game,” Beard said. “They did the things they wanted to do, they overcame some of the things we were doing. It was a good basketball game.”

Verrado finished the season 14-13, making the playoffs for the third consecutive season. It was a nice sendoff for a senior-heavy class, Beard said.

Making it to the dance, that’s the goal,” he said. “We just talked about this: there are six divisions, so only six teams are going to end the season with a win. That’s 100-plus teams that end the season with a loss, but only 24 of us [in 5A] got to say we got to the dance. I can’t speak for anybody else, but I didn’t go to any playoffs when I was in high school. My seniors are going to go out of here and the last three years in a row they went [to the playoffs]. They can tell those stories for years.”


Casey Pritchard can be reached at
or on Twitter @CaseyonSports.

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