Warriors of Central, Arapahoe fight for spot in 5A Great 8

In a darkened classroom after school, the Central girls basketball team watches video of Arapahoe High School’s team in action as they prepare for the next round of the playoffs.

Every basketball team sets goals at the start of each season, whether that’s winning a championship or just making the playoffs.

Today, the Central High School girls basketball team is looking to complete its goal of advancing to the Great 8 of the Class 5A state tournament.

First the Warriors have to get by Arapahoe at Colorado School of Mines. Tip-off is at 6:30 tonight.

Arapahoe (20-3) won the Centennial League and defeated Chatfield in the second round 66-53. Arapahoe is a senior-dominated team (7) and the Warriors are averaging 68 points per game.

Scared yet?

Central (17-7) isn’t wary, saying Arapahoe is not only a team it can compete with, but beat.

“This is not one of those things where you are walking into the game trying to prepare for David and Goliath,” Central coach Todd Dixon said. “If we put it all together, we can easily come out on top. It is not one of those things where we have to be in awe, but if we are, we will be down real quick.”

Arapahoe is led by Amy Barczuk, a 5-foot-10 senior guard who has signed with the University of Colorado to play soccer. Although soccer is her future,  Barczuk can shoot the ball with her hands as well as her feet.

She averages 23 points per game and gets plenty of offensive support from seniors Amanda Wojahn and Becky Bowman and junior Kelsey Avery.

Dixon said in a game of this magnitude, his team has to realize Arapahoe will get its points.

“Our biggest challenge will be understanding that they are going to score,” Dixon said. “We can’t get down if we are losing by five or six or get too high if we are up by five or six. We have to fight the whole time and understand this is going to be a close game.”

Arapahoe doesn’t run many half-court offensive sets. The Warriors are a run-first team that likes to score in transition, especially off turnovers.

“Our job will be to make sure they have to run half-court offense,” Dixon said. 

Although Arapahoe is an imposing offensive team, Central has its strengths on offense. The Warriors are led by Amy Kame’s 22 points, but have had other players come on strong late in the season.

Karen Hayter dropped 13 points in the second-round game against Ponderosa when Kame drew the attention of the Mustangs and got into foul trouble in the second half. She finished with 11 points.

“We have to keep Amy in the game,” Dixon said. “And we are going to have to move the ball well and can’t allow them to trap us. They are going to trap us from beginning to end and we have to be aware of that and move the ball.”

Dixon said the offensive X-factor is junior post player Haleigh Higgins. A three-sport athlete,
Higgins is averaging nine points per game but scored 17 against Durango and 15 against Fruita Monument.

“It might come down to Haleigh Higgins,” Dixon said. “If she can put 15 points on the board, I think we have a great chance to beat them, especially if Karen keeps hitting some 3-pointers and Stacy (Kinnett) continues to get to the line.”

This is Central’s second straight trip to the Sweet 16. Last season the Warriors lost to eventual state champion Highlands Ranch 94-46. Dixon wants Central to improve on last year’s game.

Tonight’s winner faces either Horizon or Fort Collins at 2:30 p.m. on Friday at the Denver Coliseum.

“We need a good stepping stone, not only for this program but for next year,” said Dixon, in his first year at Central. “We will have to play at our best but we should go in there and win this game.”


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