Sand Creek girls' basketball

Sand Creek's Riley Rodriguez defends an inbound pass by Lewis-Palmer's Kim Tucker on Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. The Scorpions won the girls' basketball game 65-49. (Chhun Sun, The Gazette)

Dressed in a Sand Creek hoodie, Krystina Hagood emerged from the visitors' locker room with a smile. Her girls' basketball team convincingly dispatched another opponent just moments earlier.

This time, it was a 65-49 victory over Lewis-Palmer on Friday night.

Hagood, the Sand Creek senior point guard, did not shy away from her team's talent and abilities. After all, they didn't falter when the Rangers (8-5, 2-2 Class 5A/4A Pikes Athletic Conference) cut a nearly 20-point lead to just 9 at the end of the third quarter.

The Scorpions (11-1, 4-0) rallied, opening the final quarter with an 8-2 run to hold on for the win. Their lone blemish this season was a 71-62 loss to Class 5A's Cherokee Trail.

"We're like the team to beat right now and everyone wants to come for us," said Hagood, who scored 10 points. "We can't slack off. If we slack off, then there's a chance we might not end up on the winning side of things. So we have to come ready."

Three years ago, Sand Creek missed the playoffs. It was quite an adjustment, considering the Scorpions made it to the semifinals and the Class 4A state title game during their two previous campaigns.

But things are beginning to shift again, thanks, in part, to the arrival of coach Payden Goldberg. The former UCCS women's basketball player took over the Scorpions program during the 2017-18 season. Since then, they haven't missed the playoffs.

In fact, Goldberg was an assistant when the Scorpions advanced to the state title game in 2015 and lost to Valor Christian. Of course, this year's Sand Creek squad isn't thinking quite that big yet but Goldberg definitely sees potential.

"With this group of girls, we don't feel like we have to or that we can compare them to teams in the past," the coach said. "They're kind of on a path of their own and it's a really cool thing to see."

That was on display Friday night, when the Scorpions took control of the game early on. Lewis-Palmer, however, had its moments, thanks to Alley DeLange's 15 points.

But Sand Creek never panicked and stayed calm in the fourth quarter. Kianna Lemons led the Scorpions with 13 points, followed by Nikki Derell's 10. The Scorpions are made up mostly of underclassmen, as Hagood is the lone senior starter.

"I had belief in our team because we always pull through at the end," Hagood said. "We're talented, an all-around team and we just come together at the end of the day."

Reporter

Chhun Sun is a sports reporter with an emphasis in preps. He joined The Gazette in April 2015 and covered public safety for three years before joining @gazettepreps staff. The Thailand-born Cambodian-American has been in journalism for nearly two decades.