The Woodland Park High School girls’ basketball team will play its final regular season game Thursday at The Classical Academy. After that contest, the Panthers will know for sure if their season continues.
The top 48 Class 4A teams qualify for the playoffs. Woodland Park has been sitting on the bubble most of the season.
“It’s been a long time since games late in the season were important for us, in terms of whether we have a chance to get in the playoffs or not,” said Woodland Park coach Del Garrick.
The Panthers’ season can be broken down into three parts. After defeating Pueblo Centennial in their opener on Nov. 30, Woodland Park lost its next seven games to teams that will all likely be in the postseason: Pueblo County, George Washington, Montrose, Palisade, Roaring Fork, Sierra and Pueblo Central.
Sierra was the Panthers’ Metro League opener.
Woodland Park came back from the Christmas break to resume league play and defeated a solid Widefield team, 49-48, in overtime. The Panthers followed that up with wins over Mitchell and Harrison to improve to 3-1 in league.
They split their next two games: a loss to league champion Mesa Ridge, 74-30, and a win over Elizabeth, 41-26.
Things took a downward turn after the Elizabeth win as the Panthers lost six of their next eight games.
“We haven’t played as consistently as we would have liked lately, but we’re not the same team we were the first seven or eight games of the season,” Garrick said. “We’ve had a lot of improvement. I would say the trajectory has been pretty good this year and there have been a lot of positive improvements and great individual efforts.”
The Panthers’ game against Mesa Ridge on Feb. 4 illustrated Garrick’s point. Woodland Park trailed 39-18 at the half, but continued to battle and learned some valuable lessons during the 71-39 loss.
“You learn to not give up,” said Panthers senior post Kylee Newsome, who scored a team-high 16 points against Mesa Ridge. “You try to see how much you can improve against a tough team. Even though we still lost, we learned how to keep our heads in the game and not give up.”
Jordan Hensley is one of three seniors on the roster (the other two are Newsome and Jacelynn Richards). Hensley believes the team has had a successful season.
“You set goals for each other and as a team, and we accomplished a lot,” Hensley said. “We had more wins this year. We played a lot better. It was a lot more fun.”
Junior Dacotah Simonis gained valuable experience this season and will be a key to the success of next year’s squad.
“We have a lot girls return next year, and a lot of them, like Kassidy (Cargill) and Sage (Drummond) were big contributors this season. We’re excited about the future,” Simonis said.
The last time a Woodland Park girls’ team made the playoffs was 2006-07.