LAKEWOOD — It wasn’t the last time Lakewood’s girls basketball team will play on its home court, but it was Senior Day on Saturday afternoon.
The Tigers, No. 6 in the latest Class 5A CHSAANow.com rankings, had their regular-season home finale against Columbine. While it’s a guarantee that Lakewood (16-3, 8-1 in 5A Jeffco League) will be at home for the playoffs, Saturday was important to honor the Class of 2018.
“I don’t have words,” Lakewood coach Chris Poisson said when asked about his senior class. “They are amazingly special. We’ve been through a lot and grown together. To see them now… it’s hard to believe they won’t be here anymore. They are apart of our lives so much.”
Seniors Sassy Coleman, Hannah Renstrom, along with the Emsbo twins — Camilla and Kira — have been on varsity all four years for the Tigers. During that stretch Lakewood has a 79-20 record, two appearances in the 5A state quarterfinals and last year’s trip to the first state championship game in the program’s history.
While the on-the-court accomplishments are numerous there has also been the off-the-court events that the group has been through. Mackenzie Forrest, Lakewood’s all-time leading scorer, passed away after a tragic car accident after the 2016 season. Shortly after that assistant coach Joe Poisson, Chris’s father, died suddenly from a heart attack.
Then there was the news before the start of this season that Kira, who will continue her basketball career at Princeton University, would miss her senior campaign because of a knee injury that required surgery.
“Their legacy is imprinted in here forever,” Poisson said. “I love them so much.”
The final chapter is far from written for the group of six seniors. Lakewood remains atop 5A Jeffco with rival and No. 5 Ralston Valley (16-2, 7-1) with three conference games left for the Tigers before the postseason begins.
“I think our goal right now is to continue to grow so we are where we are supposed to be at the end of the season when it really matters,” Lakewood senior Camilla Emsbo said Saturday. “We are on the right trajectory.”
The upward trend continued with a 59-34 victory over Columbine (14-5, 4-4) on Senior Day. The Tigers were in a tight battle through three and a half quarters, but Lakewood’s pressure defense eventually took its toll on the young Rebels.
Lakewood outscored Columbine 31-10 in the final 12 minutes to pull away for the eventual 25-point victory. It was the ninth straight win for the Tigers.
“It got to us mentally, not only our bodies,” Columbine coach Greg Bolding Jr. said of the Tigers’ constant full-court pressure. “They are going to pressure teams and that is why you are going to see them go far and are on the top of Jeffco right now.”
Sophomores Quincey Baum (9 points) and Annika Schooler (8 points) led the way for the Rebels, but in the end Emsbo and senior Jessica Woodhead were just too much for Columbine to handle.
The 6-foot-5 Emsbo poured in a game-high 28 points. It was the eighth 20-plus point game for Emsbo this season, who has signed to continue her basketball career at Yale University. Woodhead added 15 points.
“One of the biggest things we do at Lakewood is our press,” Woodhead said of Lakewood limiting Columbine to 16 points in the second half. “A lot of teams don’t handle it very well and we just thrive off that.”
The 43 points Emsbo and Woodhead combined for, along with the stellar defensive performance was enough to keep Lakewood’s winning streak going despite some rough patches in the first half for the Tigers.
“We wore them out and we’ve done that to a few teams. It’s part of why we do what we do,” Poisson said. “Thank god Camilla and Jessica don’t get tired. I don’t even think about taking them out.”
Lakewood completed the season sweep of Columbine. The Tigers defeated the Rebels 52-43 on Jan. 10.
“Last time we played Columbine we weren’t really happy with how we finished it out,” Emsbo said. “It was really important to send a message, also you don’t want to lose on your Senior Day.”
Junior Maddy Hubych had a nice second half for the Tigers with seven points, including a key 3-point play late in the third quarter that pushed Lakewood’s lead to double-digits for the first time all game. Sophomores Aaliyah Sabala and Nadia Trevizo also contributed with 3-pointers in the second half.
“We are really lucky to have a team where everyone is capable of stepping up,” Emsbo said. “That is what a championship team is.”