Haley from the Heavens: Mead's PG helps Mavs girls rally late; reach hoops quarterfinals

Feb. 23—LONGMONT — Mountain View's Addie Branscum was swoon-worthy in her role as basketball villain Friday night, casting a loud hush over what had started as an electric atmosphere at Mead High School.

Her performance in the Class 5A girls' version of the Sweet 16 was in the same tune as Elway's love letter to the Cleveland Dawg Pound in the 80s. A classic sports tale of heartbreak — well, if not for Mavericks star guard Darby Haley and a wild Mavericks comeback she woefully had to watch from the end of her bench.

Branscum scored 15 of her 25 points in the first quarter and helped the Mountain Lions push their lead to as many as 13 in the fourth before fouling out with 4:38 remaining. The No. 3 Mavericks saved their season with her out, rallying from 10 down in the final minutes of regulation, eventually beating No. 14 Mountain View, 71-60, in overtime.

"Those girls just have the will to win," Mead coach Mike Ward said. "They just believe. They believe in each other."

Haley finished with a career-high 25 points for the Mavericks, who punched their ticket to the Denver Coliseum next week for their third straight quarterfinals appearance.

After Madi Clark's tying 3 with 24 seconds to go, the junior point guard drove to the hoop and tied it again with 9 seconds left in regulation. She almost won it at the buzzer, but it went in and out, and she finished with six points in OT as the Mavericks outscored the Mountain Lions 13-2 in the extra frame.

Mead closed on a 30-10 run after Branscum picked up her fifth foul.

"You got to respect what she did," Haley said before letting out a sigh of relief. "She's so fast. And she definitely hurt us in the first and second halves."

Haley was a big reason the Mavericks (21-4) stayed afloat through a rough opening stretch dominated by the 6-foot Regis University commit.

In the paint, the junior point guard turned aside shots as if she wasn't just 5-6. She picked ballhandlers, sprawled out on the hardwood fighting possession.

Basically, she was basketball's equivalent of scratching and clawing, vowing that her team's season wouldn't end on this night. Even down double digits late, she promised her mindset never wavered.

"Always had faith," she smiled.

The Mavericks trailed by 10 in the first half before senior Gianna Wurth's 3 snapped a scoreless drought of 5:52. Haley then traded blows with Mountain View over the next few minutes, attacking the rim for three straight hoops, helping Mead tie things at 27 by halftime.

Mountain View (16-9) later went on a 16-0 run to go up 50-37 in the fourth. It led 51-41 with less than 4 minutes remaining but couldn't close with Branscum on the bench.

"It was hard to watch my last high school game on the bench," Branscum said. "We left it all out there and played as hard as we could."

Mead faces No. 11 Standley Lake in the quarterfinals at the Coliseum March 1.