HIGHLANDS RANCH -- Four of the top-20 girls basketball teams in all of Colorado play in the Continental League.
“This league is unlike anything I have been apart of,” ThunderRidge coach Paula Krueger said Friday night. “I spent 17 years at the college level and I still don’t know if I’ve seen from the top, to the middle, to the bottom the kind of parody they have in this league. It’s a fun league to be a part of, and you need to show up everyday to play. There’s no days off.”
No. 8 ThunderRidge took down the second-ranked team in the state, Highlands Ranch (15-2, 4-1), 55-43 at home on Friday. Sophomore Alyssia Martinez scored a career-high 16 points for ThunderRidge.
“I would say we should be at the top, since we took down the second-ranked team,” Martinez said. “We can do a lot, and go far.”
This season, Highlands Ranch has averaged 60.4 points -- the 19th most in the state. Those numbers put them on a 12-game winning streak that started on Dec. 7. Their 43 points against ThunderRidge was a season-low for a team that can put up big numbers.
“Defensively, we planned to keep them off balance a little big by switching things up,” Krueger said. “We went between the man and zone defenses throughout the game, and my kids did a heck of a job. They were fantastic.”
ThunderRidge never trailed Highlands Ranch. After finishing the first quarter up 11-10, the Grizzlies had a even better second as they led 33-24 behind three 3-pointers from Taylor Rusk. Highlands Ranch started the second-half strong by closing the deficit to 35-40 after three. However, Highlands Ranch couldn’t get past ThunderRidge’s stifling defense in the fourth, as they only scored eight points. Senior Taylor Reinier closed the game out with six of her eight points in the final quarter as ThunderRidge ran away with the lead.
“Tonight we proved what type of team we are,” Reinier said. “We proved that we can come out and play defense, hit big shots and play confident but calmly.”
Up next, the teams have polar-opposite schedules. Highlands Ranch will take on No. 1 Regis Jesuit (14-2, 4-0) on Feb. 5, and ThunderRidge will play Heritage (1-15, 0-4) on Feb. 4. ThunderRidge and Regis Jesuit, the top two teams in the Continental League, will face off on Feb. 14 at ThunderRidge High School. Regis Jesuit’s entire girls basketball attended the game between ThunderRidge and Highlands Ranch.
“This game gives us confidence especially after the losses to Denver East and Broomfield earlier this month,” Martinez said. “This is a tight division, and I can’t wait to play Regis.”