“We couldn’t press, because the court was too big, but we were still able to run,” she said of the low-scoring game. “We were able to score in a half-court offensive set, which we’re not normally able to. We were forced to be a half-court team against Skyview, and we were pretty efficient.”

While not technically a winning streak, Niwot has put together three very solid performances in the wake of a 74-17 loss at Greeley Central on Dec. 8. Behind Mary Gillett’s 22 points, the Cougars beat cross-town rival Skyline 43-40 in overtime on Dec. 12, then then nearly pulled off an upset win over the undefeated Berthoud Spartans on Dec. 15. In that game, senior Sophie Grant, back in the lineup following a concussion, had a career night, with 27 points and 12 rebounds, while her senior teammates Gillett and Rosie Setter combined for another 26 points. Overall, the Cougars shot a season-high 51 percent from the floor against the Spartans and also cut their turnover count by double-digits.

“I think the Greeley Central game was a little bit of wake-up call,” said Ward. “But the Berthoud game was a huge confidence-booster. We realized that if we can play like that, we can beat anybody.”

Against Skyview, the Niwot offense was more balanced, which Ward said made her team harder to defend. Led by sophomore Nikki Sims, who had a season-high eight points, the Cougars saw scoring from most of their roster, including senior Jamie Lee with seven points. Grant and Gillett were held to just nine combined, which Ward said she was actually happy to see for a change.

“Sims hit a couple of threes for us that were critical in the third quarter,” Ward said of the first-year varsity point-guard. “The rest of our team stepped up. That’s what I want, everyone who steps out on the floor to have five or six points. If we do that, we’re going to win.”

With the win, Niwot improved to 2-5 on the year, while posting significantly better shooting and rebounding stats in the last three games. Ward believes her team has turned a corner, and should be a force to contend with in the wide-open Northern League heading into January.

“Greeley Central is the cream of the crop, and let them be that,” said Ward. “Now we’ve got to fight to learn how to be second.”

The Cougars kick off 2018 with the Roughrider Invitational at Roosevelt H.S. on Jan. 4-6, where they play three games in three days. They resume Northern League competition on Jan. 9 against Longmont.

(12/20) —Niwot 35, Skyline 33