For once, Titus Rice is hoping for a different ending.
“All the years I’ve played here, we’ve gotten into the playoffs but lost in the first round,” said Rice, Coronado’s senior power forward and four-year varsity player. “Everyone here wants it to be different this year.”
Rice, the only returning starter from last year’s squad, initially carried the weight of the Cougars (12-11) on his broad shoulders. Now that Coronado has found balance with six different leading scorers this season, Rice knows his team could be difficult to defend when Skyview (10-13) plays at Coronado in a 4A first-round playoff game at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
“My teammates look to me because they know I’ve been there,” Rice said. “I put some pressure on myself, too. We have other guys who can score, and we’ve gotten a lot better as the season has gone on.”
It took a while, but first-year coach Myles Johnson finally sees signs of an emerging and peaking team. The Cougars ended the regular season on a season-long, three-game winning streak.
Not only would a win Wednesday extend that streak, but it would end another. The Cougars have been bounced in the first round of the state playoffs the past four seasons and haven’t advanced since 2008.
“Hopefully, our best basketball is still ahead of us,” said Johnson, who played two years at Colorado College and served as an assistant on Colorado Springs School’s 2A state-title run in 2009. “It has taken a while for us to gel, and it’s still an ongoing process. What we need now is the consistency to put 32 minutes together.”
While Rice leads the team in scoring at 14.1 points, he’s far from the Cougars’ only threat. Fellow senior forward Tre Vaughn averages 10.3 points, while guards Dante Fewell (8.2 points), Chandler Robinson (6.7) and Joey Dugan (6.3) provide a balanced attack that can stretch a defense thin.
Perhaps the key isn’t in the scoring output, but instead in the collective effort of all those involved.
“It’s a team effort,” Vaughn said. “When we’re down, we lift each other up and play as a team. When things are going well, it’s because we’re all on the same page.”
Twenty-three games into the season, Johnson likes what he sees, even if the ride had a bump or two along the way. He witnessed that flash of brilliance Feb. 19 in an overtime victory over Harrison.
“Being able to come back after they sent it into overtime, to stick it out when times were rough, was when the momentum switched for us,” Johnson said. “That was a huge win for us.”
If Rice and the Cougars get their way, the future will hold even bigger moments.