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St. Mary's point guard Josephine Howery keeps the ball away from the Eaton defense in the semifinals game at Hamilton Gym at the University of Denver on Friday, March 8, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette).

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DENVER — "We’re going to the ‘ship! We’re going to the ‘ship!" could be heard from the St. Mary’s girls’ basketball locker room after a dominant 54-20 3A semifinal win over Eaton on Friday night.

The Pirates are going to the ‘ship -- again.

And they will meet area rival Colorado Springs Christian -- again.

“It’s funny you play 26 games and you end up in the exact same spot you were last year,” said St. Mary’s coach Mike Burkett. “But I kind of had a feeling, and I think they kind of knew it too that this is what it was going to come down to. I really, truly believe this is going to be a great game. We are going to keep it in the springs and that’s a good thing.”

Saturday at 4 p.m. the Pikes Peak region will see its second-straight all-area Class 3A girls’ championship. Last year St. Mary’s won it to earn the program’s first state championship as the Lions settled for second in the state for the second straight year.

The area rivalry has only grown more intense in the year following the 2018 title game, with CSCS winning the team’s only regular season contest, while just who weeks ago St. Mary’s evened the season series with a win in the Tri-Peaks championship game.

“We aren’t going to run 70 points up on them and they’re not going to run up 70 points on us,” Burkett said. “You go back and forth so much it’s almost like a boxing match. You try to feel each other out and somebody gets hit or somebody goes on a run.”

St. Mary’s junior Catherine Cummings said the league championship provided momentum and confidence heading into the state title game.

“We knew what we had to do there, and we did it so I think we can do it again,” Cummings said. “I think that really helped us gain momentum but that game is over and we have to focus on the next one.”

St. Mary’s is no stranger to a lopsided score, outscoring opponents by an average of 41 points through the state tournament. But Friday the Pirates were on another level in the first quarter, thanks in most part Cummings.

Cummings had 10 of the Pirates’ 12 points midway through the first quarter, helping St. Mary’s to a 19-4 edge after the first eight minutes.

Cummings missed practice the week leading up to the championship weekend thanks to a badly bruised knee, according to Burkett.

“I hated sitting out during practice so it felt really good to be out there,” Cummings said. “I just got in there and I knew that my team needed me and I worked hard, and I knew that we had to come out strong.”

The Pirates went on a 20-0 run between the first and second quarters, and emerged from the locker room with a defensive mindset, shutting the Reds out the first seven minutes of the third.

Ten Pirates scored in the win, led by Seneca Hackley with 15 points. Cummings and Josephine Howery had 12 points each.

On Thursday in the state quarterfinals, Howery, who averages more than 20 points per game, struggled, scoring just six points.

Howery let out a big celebration when her first field goal went in Friday.

“It was good to see the ball finally go through the basket because yesterday was kind of tough,” Howery said. “I was just proud of how balanced our scoring was tonight and I just think that’s a testament to how good of a team we are.”

Now Howery, Cummings and the rest of the Pirates look to area rivals CSCS, but they said they don’t feel the pressure as reigning champions returning to the title game.

“I feel like more of the pressure is on CSCS because this is their game to do it,” Howery said. “They’ve been runners up the past two years, so I feel like the pressure is on them and that feels good to us because that means we can come in tomorrow and just play our game and hopefully come away with a victory.”

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