Mustang girls fall in first round of 4A basketball tournament

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Grace Allen dribbles the ball during a January game. The Mustang senior had an unforgettable season. (file photo)

It’s frustrating how close we were to winning. — Grace Allen

By Daniel Mohrmann

A tough season came to a tough conclusion as the Manitou Springs girls basketball team dropped its postseason opener earlier this week.

As the No. 21 seed on the Class 4A girls basketball state bracket, the Mustangs made the trip to No. 12 Berthoud on Feb. 21 and lost to the Spartans 46-41. It was a tight game, and the Mustangs (11-13 overall) even held a five-point lead after the first quarter.

But like several times in the regular season, that lead slipped away and the girls had trouble righting the ship and keeping pace offensively. Grace Allen scored a game-high 23 points and nearly completed a triple-double as she snagged 14 rebounds and eight steals.

“It’s frustrating how close we were to winning and getting that upset in the first round,” Allen said. “It was cool to see how everything we had worked on during the season came together in that game.”

Four seniors — Allen, Kaleena Jones, Cassidy Kuzbek and Sami Benge-Kulzer — came off the floor for the final time in a Manitou uniform. As heartbreaking as the moment was, the biggest takeaway for them and the coaching staff was that the team as a whole developed throughout the season, which is often spurred by senior leadership.

That was the case for this team.

“The growth that we had from the beginning of the year to that game was pretty significant,” coach Juliana Argyle said. “They played their hearts out and we improved in so many levels of our game.”

Allen put together one of the most outstanding seasons by an individual Mustang. She tied the single-game scoring record with 34 points against Banning Lewis, the single-game rebound record with 19 against Vanguard and set the single-game steals record (16) against Alamosa. She ended the year with program season records in rebounds (241) and steals (167).

Losing her and the other seniors will be a blow to the program, but Argyle is excited about a lot of young talent for the future.

“[I’m excited about] continuing with the systems we’ve built these last two years,” Argyle said. “We’re going to keep building on those strengths and, hopefully, over the summer we’ll get more touches on the ball and more experience, which will help with the growth of our program.”

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