Published: February 23, 2014
Point guard Mikayla Reese and her Sand Creek teammates celebrated their No. 1 seed at a bracket party Sunday morning.
Now they're just hoping the festivities will last through the state playoffs.
Sand Creek (20-3 overall, 14-0 4A Pikes Peak Athletic Conference) along with Mesa Ridge (23-0, 12-0 4A Metro League) were rewarded with a top seed in the Class 4A girls' basketball tournament on Sunday after the Grizzlies and Scorpions tore through their tough nonconference schedules and then, as an encore, went unblemished in their respective leagues.
"There is a lot of excitement here," Reese said standing next to her teammates. "We are definitely thrilled."
Sunday, however, was not the final act for these pair of 2013 two seeds. Not for two teams that have been aching in 'what-ifs' since their respective quarterfinal losses last season.
It's really just the beginning. And after all the anxiety leading up to the selections went by the wayside Sunday morning, the focus turned to the road ahead.
"We felt like we deserved the top spot just with how we've been playing all season, but this isn't our end goal. We want to win the state title," said Reese, the team's choreographer on the offensive side of the ball. "It's a lot nicer to have a one seed compared to our two seed from last year, especially just mentally. Our goal has always been state, but even more than last year we feel like we have a great shot to win it all this year."
Who could honestly argue? The Scorpions bullied teams like the gigantic sixth-grader on the elementary school playground. All but two of their wins came by double digits, and really, a lot of the time it felt like practice was more competitive the actual games on the schedule, Sand Creek coach Jamie Carey said.
"It's all a credit to these girls," said the third-year coach, whose team's only losses came to 4A top seeds Broomfield and Pueblo South, and 5A third-seed Highlands Ranch. "They've worked so hard to get here."
Mesa Ridge, meanwhile, did much of the same . maybe even then some. The Grizzlies had their second consecutive undefeated regular season, as they boasted one of the best interior defenses in the state and allowed the fewest points in 4A (712).
Heading into the tournament, the Grizzlies have depth at the guard and forward positions that could dictate any matchup in the tournament. That, along with two 6-footers in the paint - Kylee Shook and Sami Rudd - make them an absolute nightmare for any high school team they'll face in the next three weeks.
"Teams don't have the ability to defend that size," Grizzlies coach Jeff Beatty said. ". We'll keep preparing every day to be a state champion."
Mesa Ridge and Sand Creek could meet March 15 in the state finals at Boulder's Coors Events Center.