Three games into its season, the Dove Creek High School girls’ team has already built a reputation as a tireless unit that can break opponents down using a swarming full-court defense and a relentless fast break.
The latest rendition of the team’s run-and-gun style was showcased on Feb. 6 when the Lady Bulldogs gave Telluride High School next to no breathing room while racing to a 68-12 home victory.
“In practice, we have been working on moving our feet and staying low,” said junior Tara Buffington, when asked about the key to her team’s fast-paced attack. “We work on keeping our arms moving at all times. We try to not foul and get as many fast breaks as possible.”
While nearly every player on Dove Creek’s roster reaped the benefits of their team’s fast-paced style, no player profited more than senior Grace Hatfield, who piloted numerous fast breaks and scored a game-high 26 points.
Assisting on many of Hatfield’s buckets were Buffington and senior Kobie Beanland, who each intercepted several Telluride passes before tossing the ball ahead to Hatfield for easy layups and uncontested jump shots.
“We’re all just one whole unit,” Buffington explained. “There’s not one person that does everything. Everybody plays a part, even our bench.”
Although the Lady Bulldogs scored the vast majority of their points in transition, the team also benefited from impressive post play and rebounding by sophomore Lexi Gray, who pulled down several offensive rebounds while dominating the paint.
After scoring four points during a first quarter that ended with Dove Creek ahead 21-2, Gray put her stamp on the second quarter by scoring three baskets in the paint to help the Lady Bulldogs carry a 41-8 lead into halftime.
“I’ve been working on trying to get (inside) more and be more aggressive,” Gray said. “It started to pay off this game.”
As the third quarter got underway and Dove Creek continued to employ a full-court press, Hatfield quickly found her rhythm thanks to a transition layup 30 seconds into the quarter, and a pretty steal and scoop to the hoop moments later to put her team ahead 45-8.
Later in the quarter, with the Lady Bulldogs lead continuing to grow, freshman Kylie Gatlin sliced down the lane and scored on two consecutive possessions before Beanland banked in a long 3-pointer from the wing to give Dove Creek a 54-12 lead.
“We’ve all been playing together for a long time,” said Gray, when asked what has made her team so effective early in its season. “We know how to play with each other and we know how to pass to each other. We know one another’s strong suits.”
With the result of the contest clear during the fourth quarter of the lopsided contest, the Lady Bulldogs put an exclamation point on their 56 point victory by not yielding a basket during the final eight minutes.
Leading scorers for the Lady Bulldogs included Hatfield with 26 points, Gray with 18 points and Beanland with 10 points. Telluride was led offensively by Morgan Watkins, who scored six.
Now 3-0 on the year, Dove Creek will return to action when it hits the road to play Monticello on Feb. 8.
“We need to improve on boxing out and we need to get more rebounds,” Buffington said. “We also would like to get more assists and more steals.”