Girls Basketball: Cougars overcome dismal second quarter, hold off Heritage to open 5A playoffs

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Cherokee Trail's Kenzie McLelland, center, tries to split the Heritage defense during the first half of the eighth-seeded Cougars' 44-37 win over the ninth-seeded Eagles in a Class 5A girls state basketball playoff first round contest on Feb. 24, 2015, at Cherokee Trail High School. The win earned the Cougars admission to the second round, where they will play at top-seeded Broomfield on Friday. (Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)
Cherokee Trail’s Kenzie McLelland, center, tries to split the Heritage defense during the first half of the eighth-seeded Cougars’ 44-37 win over the ninth-seeded Eagles in a Class 5A girls state basketball playoff first round contest on Feb. 24, 2015, at Cherokee Trail High School. The win earned the Cougars admission to the second round, where they will play at top-seeded Broomfield on Friday. (Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

AURORA | When it was over, the Cherokee Trail girls basketball team’s bad second quarter was a distant memory, though at the time it vexed coach Todd Dixon.

Following a strong first quarter in their Class 5A first round state playoff opener against visiting Heritage, the eighth-seeded Cougars nearly laid an egg with a one-point second quarter to go into halftime down by six points to the ninth-seeded Eagles.

After regrouping in the lockerroom, junior Anastacia Johnson sparked Cherokee Trail with nine points in the third quarter and the Cougars made enough free throws in crunch time to secure a 44-37 victory.

Junior Jaleesa Avery made 5-of-6 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter on her way to a game-high 13 points, Johnson added 11 and junior Kenzie McLelland eight for Cherokee Trail, which won its playoff opener for the second straight season and earned itself a trip to No. 1 Broomfield in a second round game Friday.

Among the five Aurora teams in action in the opening round, the Cougars joined sixth-seeded Regis Jesuit — a 46-40 winner over 11th-seeded Pomona — in moving into the second round, while No. 10 Gateway (a 71-51 loss at No. 7 Legend) and Nos. 11 Eaglecrest (at 35-21 loss at No. 6 Poudre) and Rangeview (a 70-45 loss at No. 6 Palmer) fell on the road.

Third-seeded Grandview got a first round bye and swings into action at home on Friday night against Palmer.

Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel

(8) CHEROKEE TRAIL 44, (9) HERITAGE 37

Score by quarters:

Heritage     10  12   6   9 — 37

Cher. Trail  15   1  15  13 — 44

HERITAGE (37)

Katherine Petersen 2 0-0 4, Haily Cechini 4 0-0 11, Baily Cechini 3 1-2 7, Lauren Pohs 1 2-2 4, Amy Caran 2 1-1 6, Emily Tice 1 1-2 4, Nikki Giesen 0 1-2 1, Alyssa Biever 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 6-9 37.

CHEROKEE TRAIL (44)

Mariyah Jones 2 0-0 5, Taryn Foxen 3 0-0 6, Jaleesa Avery 3 7-10 13, Kenzie McLelland 3 2-3 8, Anastacia Johnson 4 2-2 11, Ashley Lawson 0 1-2 1, DeVanie Greene 0 0-0 0, Sariah Serrano 0 0-0 0, Aynalem Woldemariam. Totals 15 12-17 44.

3-point field goals — Heritage (5): Haily Cechini 3, Amy Caran, Emily Tice; Cherokee Trail (2): Anastacia Johnson, Mariyah Jones. Total fouls — Heritage 16, Cherokee Trail 14. Fouled out — Heritage: Katherine Petersen. Technical fouls — None.