ARVADA — A 3-point play the hard way allowed Ralston Valley to advance to the Sweet 16 of the Class 6A girls basketball state tournament Tuesday night.

Chaparral senior Reagan Lentell buried a 3-pointer with 20 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to tie things up 30-30. Ralston Valley freshman Santana Sabus went coast-to-coast in the final seconds, but missed a driving layup in traffic.

However, junior Kailey Townsend grabbed the rebound in the middle of three Chaparral players. Townsend made the putback and was fouled with 5.1 seconds left.

“I just needed to go back up,” Townsend said of her thoughts after grabbing the rebound. “That is what my coaches always tell me to do. I had to do it.”

The junior made the free throw to make it a 33-30 lead and a last-second heave from the Wolverines missed its mark to give the Mustangs the 3-point win.

Photo by Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Public Schools

“I was so relieved, so relieved,” Townsend said of her game-winning shot to give the No. 11-seeded Mustangs the narrow victory over No. 22 Chaparral.

It was actually tied for the second-lowest scoring output that Ralston Valley (17-7 record) has had this season. The Wolverines’ 3-2 zone defense gave the Mustangs some trouble with only Sabus scoring in double-digits with a game-high 15 points.

“The first game is tough,” Ralston Valley coach Amy Bahl said of the playoff opener. “Everyone is tight. We missed so many shot.”

Townsend did come up with the biggest shot of the game for Ralston Valley to avoid the first-round upset.

“I’ve been pretty tough on Kailey this whole year to use her strength and size, take advantage of it. She shows it in moments,” Bahl said junior power forward. “She defintely proved it there in the end. That was awesome to see. So rewarding for a girl who has been working so hard.”

Both defensives worked hard in the low-scoring affair. Chaparral (13-11) actually took a 25-21 lead going into the fourth quarter. However, Sabus and sophomore Sammi Madden both drained 3-pointers for the Mustangs over the span of 30 seconds early in the fourth quarter to give Ralston Valley a 27-25 lead.

“I thought that was our chance,” Bahl said of the Mustangs’ offense getting going after back-to-back 3-pointers from Sabus and sMadden in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. “Credit to (Chaparral). They ran a really good 3-2 (zone defense) and we just had a trouble time finding our pockets to get open.”

Sabus hit her fourth 3-pointer of the night with just over 2 minutes to play to give the Mustangs a 30-27 lead before the late 3-pointer from Lentell tied it.

Ralston Valley moves onto the Sweet 16 where it will travel to No. 6 Horizon on Friday night with a chance to advance to the state quarterfinals at the Denver Coliseum next week.

Six of the Mustangs’ seven losses this season has all come against 6A playoff teams that advanced to the round of 16 Tuesday night. Bahl believes that will help as her Mustangs look for the upset Friday night.

“Using our experiences we’ve had this year to hopefully propel us,” Bahl said. “I’ve told the girls after those hard losses early that they will benefit and help us in the end when we are fighting for something.”