Mesa Ridge has big expectations for the 2013-14 season, and with good reason. The Grizzlies are exploding with talent and looking for a state girls' basketball championship with a group of experienced seniors.
However, the X-factor for Mesa Ridge is just 15 years old. Sophomore Kylee Shook may not be old enough to drive, but she's certainly good enough to drive opposing defenses crazy.
The 6-foot-4 dynamo has attracted college coaches from around the country, but right now, she's focused on one thing.
"The only goal is a state championship," said Shook, who is one of three team captains. "This team is mostly seniors and they all want to win a championship before they go to college, so our practices are a lot harder and this year we want to go all the way and win it."
With a 54-33 loss to Pueblo South in the 4A state quarterfinals last season fresh in their minds, the Grizzlies (7-0) have come out with a vengeance in the nonconference schedule.
In its past three games, Mesa Ridge defeated 4A Valor Christian by one point before crushing 5A teams Fort Collins and Monarch by 22 and 17 points. Since Shook arrived at the beginning of last season, the Grizzlies are 32-1.
"I would say we carry a bit of a chip on our shoulder after last year," Mesa Ridge coach Jeff Beatty said. "We went out and played a tougher nonconference schedule and we want to be tested before the playoffs. I wouldn't want to play us with all the weapons we have."
In the win over Valor, Shook blocked the Eagles' last-second shot to preserve the victory. Against the two 5A teams, Shook tallied 39 points, 17 rebounds, nine blocks and five assists. The scary aspect of those stats for the 4A competition she'll see later this season is that Shook is putting up those numbers while learning a new position.
While she spent the majority of her time in the paint last season, Shook has been playing the wing so far this year, making Mesa Ridge extremely dangerous on offense. With a talented group around her, including post player Sami Rudd and guard Gabby Purnell, there are many options.
"I'm not used to the wing position, so I'm still getting the timing of it right," Shook said. "It's pretty hard to stop us because they can't double team either Sam or me, and we have Gabby out there too. I think I have more outside range than last year and I want to be more balanced."
Beatty says Shook will be able to go "pretty much wherever she wants" to play college basketball in three years, and that she's as big of an asset on defense as she is on offense.
"She has improved defensively quite a bit with her ability to defend the perimeter," Beatty said. "She's fast enough to stay in front of guards and big enough to guard in the post, and she is often able to shut down the other team's top scorer. Kylee is a huge part of this team."