Updated: January 14, 2014 at 11:49 pm
The Mesa Ridge girls' basketball team made it clear from the opening tip-off that it wasn't messing around Tuesday night.
The Grizzlies scored the first 18 points of the game en route to a 66-23 rout of rival Widefield on the Gladiators' home floor.
For the players, coaches and fans wearing purple, it was another easy, dominant victory.
"The plan was to put them away early, so we came out hard and put a lot of pressure on them," said Mesa Ridge point guard Gabby Purnell, who scored all of her game-high 17 points in the first half. "Our 1-3-1 press worked pretty well and I thought our defense was very good."
The Mesa Ridge 1-3-1 half-court press was so good it could've been on an instructional DVD. The Grizzlies (11-0, 3-0 4A Colorado Springs Metro League) forced 23 turnovers by Widefield (5-7, 1-2) - which equaled the total amount of points they allowed.
Mesa Ridge built the lead to 34-6 at the half and 55-14 after three quarters, when the starters were pulled in favor of younger players.
"Offense always comes for us, so I was impressed with our defense tonight; without defense you aren't going to win much," said Mesa Ridge forward Kylee Shook, who tallied 12 points, five rebounds and four blocks in three quarters of action. "We play every game like it's the state championship because we don't want to lose in the playoffs again."
The chip on the Grizzlies' shoulders results from a 54-33 loss to Pueblo South in the 4A state quarterfinals last season. Mesa Ridge started the season 25-0 before falling hard to the Colts.
As good as last year's squad was, the 2013-14 edition is probably better. Along with Purnell's and Shook's strong performances, Mesa Ridge got 13 points, four steals and four rebounds from its other post, Samantha Rudd, and 10 points from Tiffani Jackson.
After the starters put their work in, the bench players got a chance to get on the court in the fourth quarter.
"The first half was stellar tonight; when you hold a good team to six points that's pretty good," Mesa Ridge coach Jeff Beatty said. "I've been swinging some JV players up this year and putting some young players in there with experienced ones. Tonight, it was nice to get a whole group of young players in there together."
While the game was almost like a scrimmage for Mesa Ridge, Widefield got an eye-opening look at one of the best teams in the state. Coach Jim Mason, who has been at Widefield for 18 years, wasn't pleased.
"Mesa Ridge didn't do anything we didn't expect them to do; they have a nice group of senior girls who have played with one another for a long time and they have all the pieces to put themselves in the final four," Mason said.
"As far as what we need to take care of, it's the self-inflicted wounds. We have to take better care of the basketball. I wanted us to come out and play the best we could tonight, and that didn't happen."