5A GIRLS FINAL FOUR PREVIEW

5A Girls Final Four Preview
PHOTO PROVIDED BY JACKSACTIONSHOTS.COM

The girl talk on the court is good. Class 5A’s final four has turned as powerful as exclusive and as dramatic as interesting.

Colorado’s big-school championship, which will be decided this weekend at the Denver Coliseum, will continue to reside in the suburbs, as Fossil Ridge certainly falls under that guise in a suddenly expanding Fort Collins area. The other three – Grandview, Lakewood and Regis Jesuit – certainly surround Denver.

As is the case with the boys, the familiarity is real. Three of the final four were here a year ago with only Fossil Ridge crashing the party.

The party starts Thursday:

(8) Fossil Ridge vs. (4) Grandview, 7 p.m.

The SaberCats of Fort Collins have improved to 20-5 and accomplished quite a bit without much fanfare. Since coach Chad Salz took over the program in 2011-12, Fossil Ridge is a very good 131-46. The SaberCats fell in the 2014 final to Regis Jesuit, one of the best teams of the era, and really didn’t cause that much stir earlier this season, when they used a large, late 3-pointer by junior Ashley Steffeck to hand Highlands Ranch its first in-season loss, 58-57 in Fort Collins on Jan. 6. … Fossil Ridge finished third in the Front Range League, taking hits to champion Horizon (Thornton) and runner-up Fairview (Boulder). … It has won six games in a row and owns tournament victories over Rangeview and Mountain Vista, and took down the No. 1 seed, Fruita Monument of the Western Slope. … Oh, by the by, the SaberCats opened the season with a 57-52 road loss at Grandview in Aurora. … Steffeck heads Fossil Ridge in scoring (12.0 points) and rebounding (6.0). Senior Katy Guzman adds 10.0 points. But it’s a team thing for Salz’s group and don’t forget about Zaeleigh Barela, Reilly Dunn, Sophia Hadad, Kaysen Hobbs, Reaghan Lang, Rachel Novak and Lauren Zwetzig. … A couple of facts about Grandview – the Wolves have hardly collapsed after the very athletic Michaela Onyenwere moved on to UCLA and they remain the resident truth in big schools; at least, until someone beats them in the playoffs. … Grandview is the defending state champion and has lost all of one in-state game in two seasons. It was to Regis Jesuit, on Dec. 11, by 53-51, at Gradview. And, yes, the two could meet in the final. … Numbers? Grandview has numbers. It has won at least 20 games in every season since 2010-11 and is a dominant 174-22. However, it has only won the one title and coach Josh Ulitzky’s group would like nothing more than further justification. … The Wolves have been both consistent and dominant inside. Leilah Vigil (15.6 points, 7.7 rebounds) and Alisha Davis (11.3, 8.5) have seen to it. Plus, the Wolves boast Kameryn Brown, Jaiden Galloway, Landri Hudson, Tomia Johnson, Allyah Marlett and Addison O’Grady.

(6) Regis Jesuit vs. (2) Lakewood, 8:30 p.m.

Stability at the top? Big-school girls basketball has a lot of it. A heavy contributor has been Regis Jesuit head man Carl Mattei, a Canadian who loves the female game and is 291-72 with three titles (in 2010, and from 2013-14). … The Aurora Raiders are 23-3 this season and haven’t lost an in-state game. However, they somehow were seeded only sixth despite beating three teams seeded higher. The Raiders have quietly used it as motivation. … Regis Jesuit began the season in a tough, out-of-season tournament – it included a 59-42 whipping of Lakewood – and had to wait multiple seasons before being granted a spot in a high-end tournament in Ohio. Yes, the Raiders like to travel. … Regis Jesuit has won 12 games in succession and it swept its way to the Continental crown. … Indeed, uber-talented junior Fran Belibi doesn’t have astronomical numbers (13.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.7 steals, 1.7 blocks). No matter. Every major-college program craves her and who in the state can match up with her? … Olivia Ayers, Noelle Cahill, Jasmine Gaines, Samantha Jones, Jada Moore, Avery Vansickle and Sidney Weigand provide pop, defense, rebounding and transition. … Lakewood (23-3), runner-up a year ago, is staring at another strong chance, and why should it be easy? Not only have the Jefferson County Tigers scratched and clawed their way here without one-half of the Emsbo twins, but they are in the midst of facing the best there is in Colorado. Of course, coach Chris Poisson and his team wouldn’t want it any other way. … Concerning the Emsbos, Kira has only been able to play 15 games over two seasons because of injuries. Lots of teams wouldn’t be able to eat the loss of a 6-foot-5 player. However, Poisson and the Tigers have. By winning 16 games in a row and taking the Jeffco title, they also have won at least 20 games in six consecutive seasons. … Thanks to Camilla Emsbo (18.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.6 blocks), who’s bound for Yale (Kira will be at Princeton), the Tigers remain strong inside. … Sassy Coleman, Maddie Hubych, Hannah Renstrom, Aaliyah Sabala, Caira Salas, Nadia Trevizo and Jessica Woodhead also are hungry for a title shot.

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Neil Devlin
About Neil Devlin 40 Articles
Neil H. Devlin is in his 39th year covering Colorado high-school sports. He's currently the Sports Information Director at Mullen High in southwest Denver. Twitter: @neildevlin. Web: www.mullenhigh,com

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