DENVER - Standout guard Mikayla Reese said top-seeded Sand Creek might have had its eyes set on the state semifinals a bit too early.
It may have forgotten about the potential upsets that define any basketball tournament.
Saturday, for the third consecutive year in the 4A girls' quarterfinals, the Scorpions watched someone else celebrate midcourt after they had their nine-point lead in the second half erased in a 67-60 loss to second-seeded Valor Christian.
"I wouldn't say we were looking down on Valor, but I think we might have been looking towards the Final Four," Reese, a senior, said in the tunnels of the Denver Coliseum. "I think we might have thought since we beat them earlier this season that we would just do it again."
Despite clobbering the Eagles by 33 points in January, Sand Creek didn't seem to intimidate a team that had won 15 consecutive games coming in. Caroline Bryan scored a game-high 22 points and Kendall Bradbury had 14 points and 10 rebounds for Valor Christian, which closed the deficit to one before outscoring the Scorpions 23-15 in the fourth quarter.
"We'd been preparing for them for two weeks. We were ready for them and knew if we played our game we'd have a good chance to surprise some people and beat them," Bryan said after the game.
Still, Sand Creek looked like it would pull away anyway. In the third quarter, sophomore Oliana Squires scored 13 of her team-high 18 points and the transition offense was scoring at will during a 13-3 run to push the lead to 37-28 with four minutes done in the second half.
The largest advantage of the game didn't last long, however. The Eagles forced contact on both ends of the floor and went to the line more than 30 times in the final 12 minutes of the game, where they finished 33 of 47.
Sand Creek, meanwhile, went 14 for 21 from the line.
"We knew (Valor) would come out and play well. Nothing surprised us," Sand Creek coach Jamie Carey said.
"I'm proud of our seniors. They built a legacy here. They just have to hand the torch off a little sooner than we'd have liked."
Reese had 13 points and four assists, but also had 10 turnovers. She, along with J'nae Squires, Ashley Ramsey and Terra Murray played their final games in a Sand Creek jersey.