Senior trip: Making it to final four a goal for Central seniors
It’s been quite a journey for the seniors on the Central High School girls basketball team.
The seven seniors have led the Warriors to an 18-3 record heading into their final weekend of Southwestern League play.
The Warriors are 72-24 the past four years, with three appearances in the Class 5A state playoffs and a trip last season to the Great Eight.
The Warriors have gone 33-5 in the SWL and are a perfect 28-0 on their home floor in that span.
“I didn’t expect coming in for it to be this much fun and for us to be this good,” senior guard Amy Kame said. “It’s been a great experience, and I’m glad to have the teammates I’ve had.”
Kame is a big reason for the Warriors’ success. She’s started all four years, played every position and has been a first-team all-league player every year.
She’s averaged more than 20 points a game since she was a sophomore.
This season Kame is averaging 25.1 points per game, with highs of 34 against Grand Junction, 35 against Fruita Monument and 38 against Durango.
“The thing that’s on my mind is knowing I’m going to lose some kids that have meant a lot to this program,” Central coach Todd Dixon said. “We want to end this season on a positive note.”
As good as she’s been, Kame hasn’t done it alone. Haleigh Higgins, Stacey Kinnett, Tayler Else, Maddi Vana and Brittany Hoppe have provided the Warriors with a lineup that can compete at the top level.
Every player on the varsity roster is at least a two-sport athlete.
“I’ve known how special they are because it’s different here,” Dixon said. “Most of the really good teams we are facing practice basketball year-round, but this is a group that has to come off of other sports and find it right away.”
Hired in the summer of 2008, Dixon brought in a defense-first mentality that’s helped them make that transition.
In the Warriors’ 67-36 win over Fruita Monument last week, everything clicked. The teams were tied 28-28 at halftime before the Warriors put on a defensive clinic in the second half, holding the Wildcats to eight points.
“I think the proudest I’ve ever been of a team is in the second half of the Fruita game,” Dixon said.
Last season, the Warriors wanted to reach the final eight of the state tournament. After losing by eight points to Horizon in the Great Eight, this season’s team wants more.
Dixon said part of the problem last year was that the Warriors reached their goal, then didn’t know what to do.
“The thing we talked about last year is making the final eight, then once we got there it was like the dog that chases the car and finally catches it. We didn’t know what to do,” Dixon said.
“It could have been easy to make our goal the final four this year, but we thought, ‘Let’s throw all our eggs into one basket and go for this thing.’ “
The Warriors realize the opportunity is there for the program to do something that’s never been accomplished in school history, whether that’s a final four or a state championship.
All the players know not to get ahead of themselves, with two tough games coming up this week. The Warriors play at Montrose on Thursday before hosting Grand Junction on Friday.
“We need to finish out our season strong,” Higgins said. “We know we have the final goal, but we have to get there step by step.”
The Class 5A state brackets will be released Sunday, and the Warriors could be seeded as high as No. 2 in one of the four regions, which would guarantee them two home games.
“The chances we get a two seed are good if we win out,” Dixon said. “But having the league title still in question is a good thing, because it keeps us focused heading into the playoffs.”