BAYFIELD - Suddenly, it's over.A record-setting season, a district championship, a run deep into the Class 3A basketball playoffs, and suddenly, it's over.
The abrupt end for the Bayfield girls came Saturday afternoon at the hands of a mirror-like Estes Park team that pressured and scrambled its way to a 66-49 victory over the Wolverines in the regional championship game at Bayfield High School.
The preview for the ending surfaced in the third quarter when the visiting Bobcats turned tenacious defense into points - matching a formula more than familiar to the pressing Wolverines.
The Estes Park girls, led by a hustling left-handed sophomore, turned a two-point halftime deficit into an 11-point lead at the end of the third quarter.
Kimmy Hansen, who finished with a game-high 31 points, closed Estes Park's 22-9 run in the third quarter by scoring seven points in the final 1:24 of the period.
She opened the fourth quarter by converting 3-of-4 from the free throw line as the upstart Bobcats advanced to the Great 8 - the State Tournament in Fort Collins next weekend.
"We couldn't get it to come together for us (Saturday)," BHS head coach Stephanie Dennison said.
"I don't know what to say. We couldn't get shots to fall. We couldn't get our press to rotate over like it usually does.
"But the girls fought and fought and fought to the very end," Dennison said after meeting with the players in a stunned BHS locker room.
A frustrating shooting percentage was at the root of their struggles, particularly in the third quarter, Dennison said.
"That low shooting percentage ... that was our biggest pitfall," she said.
The missed shots turned into a huge rebounding edge for Estes Park, a youthful and athletic team with only one senior on the roster.
Defense, too, from the pressure-minded and purple-clad Bobcats contributed to Bayfield's shooting woes.
"That's a tough, tough team," Estes Park head coach Dave Kizer said. "We're feeling very lucky to get out of here with a 'W.'"
He said Bayfield looked daunting in the Wolverines' big Friday victory over Rye 79-50 - especially Bayfield's trapping press.
"But we've got some good guards. We thought it might be a good matchup," Kizer said.
Then, he added what he called a crucial ingredient.
"We wanted to score against the press. We felt like we could get some points off their press. And yes, they turned us over quite a bit. But we did score against the press," the Estes Park coach said.
The teams played a classic first-half of a regional title game with the lead bouncing back and forth - neither team led by more than four points.
Lindsey Shaw helped the Wolverines keep pace early in the second quarter with a steal and basket off the BHS press.
Amanda Broad converted two foul shots, and Jordan Sirios added a putback to give the Wolverines a three-point lead at 23-20.
After Leah Kingswood cut into the lead with a basket off an assist from Hansen, Shaw corralled another steal and passed to Jacey Sirios for a layup and a 27-24 lead for Bayfield.
The four-point advantage held until Hansen hit a slicing drive in the lane with six seconds left in the half, pulling Estes Park to within 31-29 of the Wolverines.
Despite foul trouble, Estes Park attacked on defense to start the decisive third quarter.
The Bobcats even threw in their own full-court press against the Wolverines, leading to a basket and steal from Kyra Stark and, later, a basket from Annika VanderWerf.
Down 51-40 to open the fourth quarter, the Wolverines launched a spirited comeback. A basket from Jordan Sirious and a nifty, left-handed inside shot from Lindsey Shaw pulled BHS to within eight points.
The Wolverines would get no closer.
Estes Park hit 9-of-14 free throws in the fourth quarter - enough for the win.
"Normally, we're not a very good free throw shooting team," Kizer said. "But we made some there at the end. And we did a good job of taking care of the ball."
Estes Park improved to 18-6.
Bayfield ended its season 17-5.
Jordan Sirios led the Wolverines with 14 points. Myra Dean scored eight.
Lindsey Shaw and Amanda Broad scored seven points each.
Jacey Sirios and Candace Shaw added six each for the Wolverines.
Hansen led Estes Park with her career-high 31 points. She also had 14 rebounds.
Teammate Alicia Stark, the only senior on the team, added seven points. Kyra Stark and Logan Morris also scored seven each.
"Give credit to Bayfield," Kizer said. "That score certainly doesn't show how close the game was ... not in opinion. We're just really excited to get this win. It was tough."
Estes Park will take on Buena Vista (23-1) in the first round of the State Tournament on Thursday at CSU.
Monte Vista of the Intermountain League was denied a trip to state when the Pirates lost 41-40 at Gunnison on Saturday.