The Manitou Springs girls' basketball team is ahead of schedule - way ahead of schedule.
The seventh-seeded Mustangs defeated No. 26 Pinnacle 53-36 Friday night in the first round of the 3A state playoffs to advance to Saturday's regional championship.
At the beginning of the season, nobody could've predicted that Manitou Springs - which has a roster comprised of four sophomores, three freshmen and two seniors - would've been this successful this soon.
But after winning the Tri-Peaks League district championship tournament last weekend, the red-hot Mustangs (17-6) entered the state tournament brimming with confidence, and it showed Friday night.
"About the middle of the season we started playing really well together, and now we're rolling along," first-year Manitou Springs coach Jon Asp said. "We're still developing as a team each game, and we know we have a lot of talent if we play as a team."
The Mustangs came out of the gate firing on all cylinders. They scored the game's first 10 points and built a 23-6 lead after the first quarter, which essentially ended the game after eight minutes.
Manitou Springs' freshman, Shelby Megyeri, scored 11 of her team-high 14 points in the first quarter to help the Mustangs gain the big lead. Megyeri plays with more poise than most freshmen, averaging 15 points per game and leading the offense at point guard.
"We started off really well, but then we kind of let down in the second quarter," Megyeri said. "We finished strong, and overall it was a good first step. I don't think we were too nervous, and it feels great to get this one out of the way and we're excited to play for a chance to go to state."
Manitou Springs outscored Pinnacle 10-2 in the third quarter to expand the lead to 45-22, which allowed many of the starters to sit out the final eight minutes and save energy for the regional championship game Saturday.
Sophomore center Angala Jensen tallied 12 points and eight rebounds in three quarters of action. Jensen was a freshman last year on a team which lost a 35-33 heartbreaker in the first round.
"The result was a lot better tonight than last year, and it's nice to be moving on this time," said the 5-foot-11 Jensen. "Although we're young, we have a lot of experience under our belt. We had goals at the beginning of the season to be here, with a chance at state, and the hard work is paying off."
Manitou Springs will host No. 10 Grand Valley at 1 p.m. Saturday, with the winner advancing to next week's state quarterfinals at the Air Force Academy.
Although they're ahead of schedule, Asp thinks his young Mustangs are ready for the big stage.
"We're winning because we're doing a lot of things correctly, and we only lose when we beat ourselves, which hasn't happened in a while," he said.
Sophomore McKenzi Petricko had nine points for the Mustangs, while sophomore center Brooke Garretson owned the post with six blocks to go with her six points.