LITTLETON — The start of the Class 5A girls basketball state tournament is one week away.
The opening round is slated for Tuesday, Feb. 20, but Dakota Ridge coach Diane Thompson wouldn’t mind if the Eagles aren’t on the court a week from now.
“It is one of those things were I don’t remember when Dakota Ridge was that high of a seed,” Dakota Ridge coach Diane Thompson said of the Eagles’ possibility a top-16 seed. “The way the RPI works and how we’ve scheduled, all of our losses are to teams in the top-25. If you look at that you know you can play with anybody. The thing now is can you beat them.”
A strong late-season run — overtime loss to No. 7 ranked Fruita Monument and victory over a short-handed No. 6 Ralston Valley — has the Eagles (14-8, 8-3 in 5A Jeffco) in position to grab a top-16 seed and opening-round bye for the 48-team state tournament.
“We definitely got some fire from the Fruita game. They are one of the top ranked teams in the state,” Dakota Ridge senior Alexa Buchli said. “If we can hang with them we can hang with anybody.”
If Dakota Ridge, No. 15 in the RPI to start the final week of the regular season, gets a top-16 seed it would host a second-round game Friday, Feb. 23. The Colorado High School Activities Association is set to release the 48-team bracket on CHSAANow.com on Sunday.
The Eagles advanced to the Sweet 16 during the 2015-16 season as the overall No. 19 seed during Thompson’s first season at the helm of Dakota Ridge’s girls basketball program. Eventual 5A state runner-up Highlands Ranch ended the Eagles’ run two years ago.
“It’s amazing,” said Buchli, who played as a sophomore on that Sweet 16 team two years ago and was honored after the game along with fellow senior Skylar Lodice on Tuesday night against rival Chatfield. “We’ve come so far.”
Dakota Ridge kept its hot streak going Tuesday with a 77-67 victory over Chatfield.
The Eagles had four starters — Buchli (12 points), juniors Maggie Hawley (10 points), Sydney Daniels (11 points), along with sophomore Emily Doolittle (19 points) — reach double-digit points. The Eagles also got a nice contribution from their bench with sophomore Mallory Magana leading the way off the bench with seven points as nine different Dakota Ridge players scored in the victory.
“It’s definitely good having a bunch full of players that are capable of stepping up,” Buchli said.
Chatfield stayed within striking distance thanks to Tedy Reed. After not scoring in the first quarter, the Charger junior poured in a game-high 32 points in the final three quarters.
“We knew it was a rival game, senior night and it was a little crazy,” Thompson said. “When it comes down to it a win is a win.”
The Eagles get another shot against one of the perennial Jeffco powerhouses in Lakewood. Dakota Ridge hosts the No. 7 ranked Tigers at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15 to wrap up its regular season.
“We’ve got playoff coming up so we have to get better and better. That is what we are raring for,” Thompson said. “It doesn’t get any easier. We are trying to win every game from here on out and that is what you have to do.”
Lakewood (19-3, 10-1) officially clinched at least a share of the 5A Jeffco title Tuesday night with the Tigers’ 12th straight victory, a 65-48 win over Bear Creek.
“We just have to keep a positive mindset,” Doolittle said about heading into the playoffs. “We just have to keep looking to what our goal is, to get a W.”
Chatfield (10-12, 2-9), No. 25 in RPI before Tuesday’s game, wraps up its regular season on the road against Columbine at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16.