Primarily due to injury and/or illness, the Chino Valley girls' basketball team dressed only eight players for a section game against Division 3 No. 8-ranked Phoenix Horizon Honors Friday night.
And then it got even worse for the hosts.
With just 3 minutes and 31 seconds left in the first quarter, Lady Cougars starting center Chelsey Ludwig suffered a separated shoulder while going for a ball out of bounds.
D-3 No. 35 Chino played valiantly the rest of the contest but ultimately couldn't overcome fatigue and a staunch Horizon Honors defense in a 36-25 loss at the CVHS main gym.
"Right now, we're probably going to struggle a little bit," Chino Valley coach April Jelovic said afterward. "These younger girls are just going to have to step up, and our senior (Caitlyn Ballard) and junior (Ricky Rodriguez) are just going to have to be great leaders on and off the court, and just push through it. We can still play with teams."
In the D-3, Section 3 clash, Lady Cougars guard Ricky Rodriguez scored a team-high nine points and pulled down four rebounds. Shelbey Shelton and Mariah Hall, who came off the bench, netted five points each.
Athletic standout guard Caitlyn Ballard was limited to three points, four rebounds and an assist.
For the Eagles, senior star Rachel Irons registered a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds as well as three assists. Rachel Van Gorp tallied 10 points, five boards and three helpers. Sierra Reese added eight points, four of which came in the fourth quarter, and hauled in eight rebounds.
With the loss, Chino Valley dipped to 0-2 in section (9-6 overall, 3-3 in power-point games), while Horizon Honors improved to 2-1 (11-7, 8-1).
Despite their struggles, the Lady Cougars played well for most of the contest, even though they were out-rebounded 32-20. They led 4-0 halfway through the opening period before Ludwig went down writhing in pain on the opposite sideline from the teams' benches with a right shoulder separation.
After several minutes on the floor, she had to be helped off the court, and her status wasn't immediately available following the game.
Tied 7-7 at the end of the first, Horizon Honors started to pull away in the second quarter, outscoring Chino 12-5 for a 19-12 halftime edge. The Lady Cougars struggled from the free-throw line, converting only 4-of-11 tosses in the opening half.
Nevertheless, Chino made a game of it, pulling within six points of the Eagles, 28-22, at the end of three.
But once Horizon Honors buckled down defensively and began playing a ball-control offense, the Lady Cougars had become gassed. The Eagles pushed ahead 32-22 some three minutes into the fourth and soon took control.
"We could definitely feel the pressure," Rodriguez said. "They were pulling the ball off us so that we felt like we had to score more once we were getting to the end."
Hall's 3-point basket with three minutes left in regulation was Chino's lone field goal of the final period. The Eagles went on to outscore CVHS, 8-3, as Reese and Irons had four points apiece.
Horizon Honors corralled Ballard and Shelton, two of Chino's best shooters. Neither of them scored in the second half.
"We played a 1-2 zone and then man-to-man on both of them in the triangle and two," Horizon Honors coach Nate Agostini said. "Every time they drove to the basket, we really tried to double team and make sure somebody was there."
Coming into Friday, Chino was missing three key players, including starters Hunter Stewart-Koberstein (gall bladder; team's leading rebounder) and Jenny Ballard (knee injury; out for the season), as well as Briana Nodal (family matters). Now the Lady Cougars must compete without Ludwig, who's out indefinitely.
"It did play an emotional factor," Rodriguez said of losing Ludwig. "But we came out and played really intense and played together, which is our goal."
The Lady Cougars will face Wickenburg in the annual "Box Out Breast Cancer" event that's being conducted all day today at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley. Tip-off is at 11 a.m.