Olathe leans on defense to advance to 3A final eight
When a team gets it right defensively, good things happen.
The Olathe High School girls basketball team is one of the best defensive teams in the state, and that defensive focus has taken the Pirates to the final eight of the Class 3A state playoffs, which begin today at Moby Arena at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
The Pirates (24-0) are giving up an average of only 34 points per game, which has translated into a 24-game winning streak and the No. 3 seed.
Defense has been Olathe coach Paul Althaus’ calling card during his seven seasons in charge, but this group of Pirates has executed that defense with perfection.
“We’ve preached it for a number of years, and that’s to build our defensive game and have great intensity,” Althaus said. “It’s allowed us to struggle offensively some games and still get some wins.”
That includes a 44-41 win over Grand Valley in the district championship game and a 47-40 win over The Academy in the regional championship game.
“We play straight man-to-man, and we’ve done that all season,” Althaus said. “The kids have bought into it, they’re very aggressive, and we have the athletes that can play that style.”
The Pirates’ run this season includes a win over Class 2A power Paonia in addition to not allowing a team to score more than 50 points all season. Olathe success is more impressive since the roster is full of underclassmen, led by leading scorers Emily Brummitt (14 points per game), Morgan Stansberry (11 ppg) and Tawni Middleton (11 ppg). In fact, the Pirates have only one senior on the team, Bretta Prosser.
“This has been quite the special season for us,” Althaus said. “(Being undefeated) is something we’ve try to avoid talking about when we get to this point.”
Although Olathe is currently having one of its best seasons ever, things weren’t always great in the Pirates gym. Althaus remembers two straight years when they didn’t win a league game.
“We struggled, but we had kids that were dedicated to the program,” Althaus said. “They spent a lot of time playing summer ball, and the hard work has paid off.”
When the tournament begins today, the Pirates will be up early, playing league foe Coal Ridge at 8:45 a.m. Olathe has defeated the Titans three times this season, including a 51-43 win in the second round of the district tournament.
“You never know going into regionals, and we had three other teams from our league on our side,” Althaus said. “But I’m pleased that there are two teams from our league. It’ll be tough, we’ve had great games with them, and we have to be ready mentally.”
If the Pirates advance, they play the winner of No. 2 seed Holy Family and No. 7 Brush. Those two teams have a combined three losses. Despite the tough competition, Althaus said the Pirates are looking to achieve their final goal.
“We’ve had some main goals for this year,” Althaus said. “We wanted to win league, win districts, win regionals, and win the state tournament. They are real focused on that final goal, and we are hoping for good things.”
STATE NOTES: The closure of Interstate 70 because of a rock slide in Glenwood Canyon has played tricks with the Western Slope teams’ travel plans. Teams traveling east have had to take I-70 out of their travel plans, making it a little more difficult to get to Fort Collins. Coal Ridge and Olathe are finding their way by taking a detour through Meeker and Steamboat Springs, then going over Cameron Pass, adding two hours to their drive time.
The Class 3A, 4A and 5A boys and girls final four and championship games will be shown by pay-per-view on the CHSAA Web site (chsaa.org). The cost is $10 for the final four and $15 for the championship.