Friday, Feb. 27, 2009 | 11:40 p.m.
One year ago the Boulder City girls' basketball team failed to win a single league game.
This season, the Eagles turned their program around and advanced to the 3A state tournament.
The Eagles' stay at the tournament was short-lived, however, as they lost to Lowry 49-41 Friday at Desert Oasis High School in the state semifinals.
Even after the loss, the Eagles found consolation in reaching in the state tournament for the first time since 2004.
"I'm very proud of this group," head coach Brian Lemmel said. "I hope the girls understand that I wouldn't trade them for anything."
Boulder City's bid into the state tournament came just one year after the Eagles failed to even make the playoffs. This season Boulder City won the Southern League title and earned the No. 1 seed in the state tournament.
Boulder City's three seniors, Caitlin Forrester, Elise Smith and Endea Dawson were the "heart of the soul of the team," and their leadership helped carry the Eagles to the state tournament, Lemmel said.
"Our three seniors really dedicated themselves to this season," he said.
Forrester, who will continue her basketball career at Colorado State-Pueblo, starred for that group. She carried the team all season, and whenever the Eagles needed a big shot or key play, they looked to Forrester.
She led the Eagles in just about every statistical category, and with the kind of season Forrester had, Lemmel was disappointed the Eagles couldn't cap it off with a state championship.
"She is the best player in the state and she was a joy to coach this year," he said. "She worked really hard this season, but worked even harder in the off-season."
Forrester had another strong performance against Lowry in the state semifinals, finishing with a game-high 23 points. She also added six assists, five rebounds, four steals and three blocks.
Forrester's strong shooting performance in the second half helped the Eagles come back from a 15-point halftime deficit and cut the lead the six points in the fourth quarter. The Eagles eventually ran out of time, and resorted to fouling to stop the clock. Lowry was clutch from the foul line in the final minutes, which sealed the Eagles fate.
"I'm really proud my team did not quit," Lemmel said. "Quitting is easy but coming from 15 points behind at halftime and getting back in the game really shows their heart."
Rachel Moody and Melissa Stewart each added five points, and Elise Smith had two points in her final high school game.
"We were prepared as we thought we could be, but they're a very good team," Lemmel said.
With the state tournament close to home, Boulder City enjoyed a strong showing from local fans, who also came to watch the boys team before the girl's game. Many Boulder City fans stuck around to watch the girl's game.
"We've had great support all season. It's a lot of fun to coach at Boulder City because our fans love watching our teams play," Lemmel said. "Boulder City, win or lose, has huge fans."
The Boulder City boy's team (15-17) enjoyed a more favorable fate, taking down Lowry 59-56 to advance to the state championship against Moapa Valley Saturday at the Orleans Arena. The Eagles dominated the Buckaroos early, leading by as many as 16 points in the second quarter.
Lowry used the second half to chip away at the lead, and eventually trailed by just one point.
With the game on the line, Boulder City's Joe Western hit clutch shots from the foul line, going 5-6 from the charity stripe in the final 32 seconds.
Lowry had a chance to tie the game at the end, but missed a three pointer at the buzzer.
"It's awesome," Western said. "It's one of the best experiences of my life."
Western led the Eagles with 24 points, Jeremy Smith had 14, and Shane Levin added 11.
Garrett Downing can be reached at email@example.com or 948-7803