Published: March 3, 2014
After Palmer Ridge lost in the second round of the 4A girls' basketball tournament exactly one year ago to the day - the Bears were determined to "rewrite the ending" on Saturday night in Glenwood Springs.
The team wore shirts with the three-word phrase on them before the game, and then took it to the second-seeded Demons 50-32 behind a stout defense and 17 points, seven rebounds and five steals from Michelle DeCoud.
The senior forward posted 18 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and three assists in a 57-37 win over Weld Central on Friday night, and then helped her team to its first 4A state quarterfinal appearance in school history the next day.
"When we finished last season, the kids had shirts printed that said 'rewrite the ending' because we had such a bad taste after the way it ended," Palmer Ridge coach Dennis Coates said of losing 31-25 to Rifle on March 1, 2013. "The seniors wanted the chance to go back to the Western Slope and redeem themselves."
The Palmer Ridge upperclassmen - who have been playing together since middle school - left an impression with the 18-point win at Glenwood Springs.
"We've played together for so long that we know what each other are capable of and we all know what we're going to do," DeCoud said of the seniors. "We had huge motivation because last year it was heartbreaking to lose like we did. With so many seniors on this team we wanted to make it last as long as possible this time."
DeCoud has been part of a two-girl wrecking machine in the paint for Palmer Ridge this season. When you pair her 13.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game with Ali Meyer - who averages a double-double - it's easy to see how the Bears have been so successful.
Coates says DeCoud is pretty easygoing, but that she has a fuse and gets locked in when the ball is tipped.
"Usually about the first time she gets fouled is when she has that scowl on her face, and I know she's ready to go," Coates said. "She's had a great couple of weeks, and the teams who don't know us probably focus on Ali, but Michelle has stepped up and played really well for us."
The Bears' reward for making it to their first quarterfinals in school history? A date with No. 1 Broomfield (25-0) on Saturday at the Denver Coliseum.
The Eagles have made it to the 4A state quarterfinals each of the past 10 years, and won five state titles in that span. But don't expect DeCoud and her teammates to be intimidated one bit.
"I think we have a good chance of beating them with all of our experience together," she said. "It's a big motivator for us that it's the first time we can show everyone what we're made of."
When DeCoud and the Bears take on Broomfield, there will be some support coming from a strange place - rival Lewis-Palmer. Her little brother, Joe, is a sophomore on the Rangers' basketball team.
"I always tell Joe that I support him, but not the school or the colors," DeCoud says with a laugh. "But I know he'll be cheering for me this weekend."