DENVER — Regis Jesuit girls basketball has simply been unbeatable in the state of Colorado during the 2017-18 season.
The No. 6-seeded Raiders stayed undefeated against in-state programs and games played in Colorado this season with a 47-34 Class 5A state semifinal victory over No. 2 Lakewood late Thursday night at the Denver Coliseum.
"The fact that we haven't lost in Colorado was a big slap in the face that we were the sixth seed," Regis sophomore Jada Moore said. "It only made us want to work harder."
The three losses Regis (24-3 record) has suffered this season came against teams from Nevada, California and Ohio in out-of-state tournaments. The Raiders’ win over Lakewood (23-4) adds to an impressive postseason run that includes wins over Broomfield, Cherry Creek and Horizon.
Regis faces defending 5A state champion Grandview in the championship game scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 10, back at the Coliseum.
"We have a great team," Moore said. "I feel like we have everything we need to win a state title this year."
Grandview cruised past Fossil Ridge 54-38 in the earlier 5A semifinal.
Regis held a 19-13 lead at halftime. The Raiders jumped out to a 9-2 lead in the opening minutes before the Tigers could get anything going offensively. Still, Lakewood struggled scoring throughout the first half going 5-for-24 from the field for 20.8 percent shooting in the opening half.
"Field goal percentage and rebounding was the name of that game," Lakewood coach Chris Poisson said after the Tigers' 16-game winning streak was snapped. "We have been on fire the last month. It was kind of bound to happen to have a bad shooting night."
Lakewood finished shooting 11-for-45 for 24.4 percent. Senior Jessica Woodhead was the lone Tiger to reach double-digit with a 12 points.
"In all honest, not really," Moore said when asked if she was surprised by the Raiders' defensive effort. "We take pride in defense. Our defense is very intense and it's hard to get up good shots on us."
The Raiders pushed their lead to double-digits early in the third quarter thanks to an early 3-pointer from senior Jasmine Gaines and a pair of inside buckets from senior Noelle Cahill.
"The third quarter has usually been our quarter," Regis coach Carl Mattei said.
Regis extended the lead to 32-16 thanks to six straight points from Moore. Lakewood senior Camilla Emsbo finally stopped the Raiders’ 10-0 run with 2 minutes left in the third quarter.
"Defense wins championships," Mattei said. "It was a old-time heavyweight fight. We were in the 10th round and we were able to get a little separation."
Junior Francesca Belibi put the icing on the cake for Regis scoring 10 of her game-high 14 points in the final quarter.
It will be the sixth 5A title game for the Raiders since 2008. Regis is 3-2 in championship finals during decade-long stretch where the Raiders have reached the title game more than any other 5A girls basketball program.
Regis was also the 4A state runner-up in 2006 before making the jump up to 5A.
While Lakewood came up short on returning to the 5A title game for the second straight year, the Tigers’ playoff run this season might be a little more impressive than last season as the No. 9 seed. Even before the start of the 2017-18 season the Tigers lost 6-foot-5 senior Kira Emsbo for the season.
Kira, twin sister of Camilla Emsbo, underwent knee surgery just before the start of the season to repair a torn ACL. Lakewood identical twins will actually face off against each other in college. Kira has signed with Princeton University and Camilla will play for rival Ivy League program Yale University.
"No shame," Poisson said. "Regis was better tonight. My hats off to them."
The semifinal between Lakewood and Regis was the second meeting this season. The Raiders took a 59-42 win over the Tigers at the La Jolla County Day Tournament on Dec. 1 in California.