DENVER – The Arapahoe girls basketball team didn’t bother waiting for the Class 6A Great 8 showdown against No. 1 Valor Christian to start believing in its potential. That process started a month ago.

And belief can be a scary thing when it really starts to build.

That belief only intensified when the No. 8 Warriors went into halftime down just two to the Eagles. And then it took on a life of its own as they pulled away in the fourth quarter to get a 62-54 win and advance to the Final 4.

And now they’re just one win away from reaching the second state championship game in program history. There was never a feeling that they had to beat Valor in order to get there, they knew they just had to be themselves.

“We talked before the game and we talked at halftime,” coach Jerry Knafelc said. “We felt really confident about where we were with us. It had less to do with them than it did with us.”

Gianna Smith scored eight of her team-high 24 points in the first quarter, but the Eagles led by six. She was held scoreless in the second, but Arapahoe had managed to cut into the lead by four points.

“We talked about believing and just working together and keep playing defense,” Smith said.

The Warriors (20-6) flat out dominated the second half, allowing the Eagles to score just nine points in the third quarter and 13 in the fourth. The offense picked up just as much as the defense did. Smith scored 16 points in the second half while Sydney White finished the night with 16 and Emerson Stark added 10.

No one player was going to be able to beat the top seed in the bracket, so the Warriors simply did what they do best.

“We had to be patient and trust each other,” Smith said. “On the floor we had great energy.”

Even with a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and the student section beginning its celebration, the feeling of winning had to be delayed until the final buzzer went off.

“When you play a team that’s as good as Valor is, settling in happens now. When the game is won,” Knafelc said.

Settling will only last for about a day as the Warrior will get right back to work to prepare for their Final 4 clash against Monarch.


(4) Monarch 62, (12) Regis Jesuit 44

(Dan Mohrmann/

Sometimes a solid brand of team basketball is the way to win a lot of games at the right time of the year.

After falling behind early in the first quarter, the Coyotes simply settled down and allowed everyone to do their jobs. The results were four players scoring in double figures and a 62-44 win over Regis Jesuit in the Class 6A girls basketball Great 8.

Now the Coyotes (25-1 overall) are headed back to the Final 4 for the first time since 2015.

“We have such a deep bench and anyone in our starting five can be a leading scorer on any night,” senior Amelia Rosin said. “That really helps because no other team has that.”

Rosin scored a game-high 16 points while Natalie Guanella had 14 and Areas Safi and Hayley Luther each had 13.

Monarch had to weather a bit of a storm in the first quarter as the Raiders (17-9) knocked down some early shots to take a 23-12 lead.

“They shot the lights out, they really did,” coach Mike Blakely said. “They have good shooters so it wasn’t a surprise.”

The Coyotes never wavered from their game plan or their style of play and they started making their own shots while slowing down Regis. After giving up 23 points in the first, they allowed the Raiders to score just 21 for the rest of the game.

“They always say defense wins championships,” Blakely said. “We’ve talked our defense at the beginning of the year. We don’t score enough to beat a team and that’s why we rely on our defense.”

They’ll take that strategy into next weekend when they try to finish off a magical season. Monarch has advanced to the state championship just twice in school history and lost in both games. A solid defensive effort and a team-first mentality on offense has this team looking the part of a championship contender.

“This is insane,” Rosin said. “There are so many emotions right now. I’m just so proud of our team for how far we’ve come this season.”