Cherokee Trail’s Damara Allen, center, gets off a shot in front of Highlands Ranch’s Isabella Shumpert (22) during the second quarter of the Cougars’ 56-45 girls basketball win over the Falcons on Nov. 29, 2022, at Cherokee Trail High School. Allen scored 11 points to help Cherokee Trail avenge a postseason loss to Highlands Ranch last season. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel Colorado)

AURORA | The Cherokee Trail girls basketball team made a statement to open the new season Tuesday night on its home floor as it knocked off annual powerhouse Highlands Ranch 56-45.

Coach Tammi Traylor-Statewright’s Cougars came into the season receiving votes in the CHSAANow.com Class 6A coaches poll, but should earn plenty more next week in the wake of the double-digit victory over the Falcons, who the preseason No. 5 team in 6A.

Sophomore Madeline Gibbs made two of Cherokee Trail’s three 3-pointers on her way to a team-high 14 points, while she was joined in double figures by junior Damara Allen and sophomore Delainey Miller, who scored 11 apiece.

The Cougars lost to the Falcons 71-43 in the second round of last season’s 5A state tournament, but the rematch was decidedly different as Cherokee Trail dominated the second and third quarters.

Highlands Ranch led by a point after one quarter, but the Cougars went in front early in the second quarter and built a four-point advantage. The Falcons pulled even at 21-21, but a transition basket from Gibbs (on an assist from sophomore Talia Strode) put Cherokee Trail back in the lead. Allen fed Miller for a transition basket and then converted a pass from Gibbs off a steal to make it a six-point edge that turned into a 30-22 edge at the break.

The Cougars then outscored the Falcons by seven points in the third quarter to take a 15-point lead.

Cherokee Trail turns right around to play in the ThunderRidge Tournament, which it opens with a 5:30 p.m. game against Mesa Ridge (a 5A team) at ThunderRidge High School.

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports

Cherokee Trail 56, Highlands Ranch 45

Score by quarters:

High. Ranch     16    6    7  16 — 45

Cherokee Trail  15  15  14  12 — 56

Cherokee Trail points: Madeline Gibbs 14, Damara Allen 11, Delainey Miller 11, Alana Biosse 8, Ava Turnbull 8, Brynley Lane 2, Talia Strode 2

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