A Warrior steal triggered a fast-break basket for the first points of the game, and Arapahoe never looked back as the team bested Fruita Monument 78-32 in March 5 girls Sweet Sixteen state tournament action.
The Class 5A win advanced the Warriors to the Great Eight, in a game set for March 7 at the Denver Coliseum against ThunderRidge. The game was to be a rematch for Arapahoe against the team that knocked them out of the state tournament last year.
The winner of that game advances to the Final Four bracket, which will be played at the University of Colorado Events Center in Boulder on March 14. The championship game is scheduled in Boulder on March 16.
Arapahoe came out fired up on March 5. They mounted a fast-paced attack, whipping the ball around to get it to the player with the open high-percentage shot. They also played an aggressive, full-court press defense that produces six first-quarter steals or turnovers that were converted to points, helping the Warriors build a 19-1 lead by the end of the period.
Coach Jerry Knafelc said after the game that the win over Fruita Monument was a big victory for the Warriors.
“This gets us over the hurdle because we lost the game at this point in the state tournament last year by one point after leading the entire game,” the coach said. “It is also very exciting that our team is heading for the Coliseum because it has been 10 or 12 years since a Warrior team has gotten this far in the state tournament.”
The Warriors mount a balanced attack that Knafelc said is a point of pride for the team.
“We have a lot of good players, and the girls understand we are a great team if we share the ball and play great defense,” he said. “We also have good depth so we can substitute and maintain the high level of play.”
All 12 Arapahoe players got into the game and nine of them scored. Team leaders were Alex Buechler with 13 points, Kera Riley with 11 and Karlyn Johnson with 10.
Buechler, the point guard, said she didn't have a good start to the game.
“I got off to a rough start and I missed a lot of inside shots,” the senior said after the game. “That could have been nervousness because it was the state playoffs and it was our final home game this season. But I kept working at it and settled down so I could make those shots.”
She said it was exciting to be going to the Coliseum because the Warriors haven't been there in several years.
“Going to the Coliseum gets us one step closer to where we want to be and closer to our goal of winning a state championship,” she said. “We came into the season confident and, at the start of the year, I realistically believed we could get this far and could keep going to achieve our goal of winning a championship.”