Montrose High School girls team reaches the state Final Four
Short of having the five most talented players in the state, it takes a near harmonic convergence for a high school basketball team to reach the state Final Four.
Everything the Montrose High School girls team has needed to go right, has gone right.
The Indians are hoping to carry a little momentum and a lot of defensive hustle into Friday’s state finals. First, they have to get past Mullen at 4 this afternoon in the semifinals at the CU Events Center in Boulder.
The winner plays the winner of today’s game at CU between Broomfield and Fossil Ridge. The girls title game is at 6 p.m. on Friday at CU.
This season’s Montrose girls team is not inherently different from the ones longtime coach John Mraule has presided over in the past. Montrose teams hang their hat on not letting the opponent score a lot of points.
“I think there’s no question in both of our (Sweet 16 and Great Eight) games it was defense,” Mraule said of what carried Montrose to victories over Mitchell (42-31) and Mesa Ridge (55-51) last week.
“It’s the same thing that’s carried us all year,” Mraule said.
It’s the same thing that’s carried Mraule-coached teams since the mid-1970s.
The four-point victory over Mesa Ridge on Saturday marked the first time all season that the Indians (24-2) had given up more than 47 points.
All the more impressive is that Montrose’s roster does not include a 6-foot player. Juniors Hannah Bowden and Courtney Geesing, at 5-10, represent the height.
“(Hannah) plays taller than that,” Mraule said.
Getting past the Mustangs this afternoon will be a tall order. After Montrose’s victory over Mesa Ridge on Saturday at the Thunderdome in Denver, Mraule took his team to Metro State College to watch Mullen’s 67-55 victory over Longmont.
“(Mullen’s) a pretty dynamic team,” Mraule said. “They’re big, they’re quick, they’ve got all the ingredients.”
Mraule is going with what got him here. With only four-point losses to Shiprock, N.M., and Central on the ‘L’ side of the ledger, there’s no need to alter the game plan.
“We’re not gong to change things now,” he said.
“At this point, we just want to go out and leave everything on the floor,” said Indians point guard Rachel Hansen, one of three seniors on the team.
“We are definitely going in with nothing to lose.”
If defense has been the common thread this season, another factor has contributed heavily to the Indians’ success.
“This team has good team chemistry,” Mraule said.
“We all just play really, really well together,” Hansen said. “We just go out and have fun.”
More important, the Indians are confident every time they take the court.
“They firmly believe they’re going to go (to Boulder) and beat Mullen,” Mraule said.
In Fort Collins, the Aspen boys are striving to improve on their fourth-place finish from last season in the Class 3A state tournament. The Skiers (23-1) take on Faith Christian at 8:45
a.m. in Thursday’s first round at Moby Arena on the CSU campus.
Coal Ridge, which is on the same side of the bracket as Aspen, faces Eaton in the first round at 7 p.m.
Gunnison (19-5), the lone Western Slope League representative in the 3A girls tournament, meets Eaton (22-2) at 8:30 p.m. in Thursday’s first round.
In Pueblo, the Meeker boys (23-1) begin their quest for a Class 2A state title on Thursday against Sanford at 11:45 a.m.
Three WSL teams are in the 2A girls bracket. Paonia, whose only loss was to Olathe in the second week of the season, is the No. 2 seed in the bracket (23-1 Wray is No. 1). The Eagles put their 21-game win streak on the line against Merino in Thursday’s late game at Massari Arena on the CSU-Pueblo campus.
Meeker plays Burlington at 10:15 a.m. and Hayden faces Sanford at 1:15 p.m.
The Crested Butte boys are the Western Slope’s lone representative in the Class 1A tournament at Butler-Hancock Arena at UNC in Greeley. The Titans, the third seed, open with Flagler at 8:45 on Thursday morning.