WESTMINSTER -- One checked-off goal for Lakewood’s girls basketball team was worn on postgame t-shirts Tuesday night.
Each Lakewood player sported a Class 5A Jeffco League championship t-shirt as they exited Standley Lake High School. The Tigers (21-1, 15-0 in league) officially clinched the conference title with a 56-37 victory against Standley Lake.
“It means the world to me,” Lakewood senior captain Jessica Brooks said. “When I first came in we didn’t win very much. Now we have just lost one. It just feels so awesome that we won (league) my senior year.”
It’s the first girls hoops conference title for Lakewood since winning 5A Jeffco in 2008. Ralston Valley had won the 5A Jeffco League four times over the past five seasons, including three in a row before the Tigers cemented themselves as the class of the conference this season.
“It means so much from where we were four years ago, winning three games, to winning a league championship,” Lakewood coach Chris Poisson said. “It’s extremely special. This group is special.”
Lakewood struggled to a 3-20 record during its 2009-10 campaign, Poisson’s second year coaching the Tigers. Lakewood, No. 3 in this week’s CHSAANow.com rankings, has now reeled off back-to-back 20-plus win seasons.
However, the Tigers aren’t done yet.
“Our focus is to get a good seed. Get some home games for the playoffs. Hopefully make it to the Denver Coliseum,” said Brooks, who scored a game-high 23 points Tuesday. “We are just so pumped and ready to handle what is coming at us.”
Standley Lake gave Lakewood all it could handle in the first half. The Gators (8-13, 4-11) actually were tied 19-19 at halftime.
Juniors Caylie Hartman (13 points) and Casey Torbet (eight points) kept the Gators competitive against the Tigers, who have won 10 straight since losing a non-league game Jan. 13 against Castle View.
“It was a good first half. We followed our game plan, stuck with it,” Standley Lake coach Denise Lopez said. “We played with a lot of confidence.”
After struggling with its perimeter shooting in the first half, getting the ball to Brooks and sophomore McKenna Bishop in the paint was the offensive focus in the third quarter. Brooks and Bishop combined for 13 points in the third.
“Jess (Brooks) was huge,” Poisson said. “She said, ‘I was taking over the boards.’ Standley was so physical. Good thing for Jess. That gave us the lift.”
The Tigers went on a 16-0 run in the third quarter to get some distance between the upset-minded Gators.
“The first half our intensity was just so low,” Brooks said. “After halftime we came out strong and that is what’s important. We had to pound it down low.”
Lakewood sophomore Mackenzie Forrest found her shooting touch in the second half. Forrest finished with 20 points, just over her season average of 19.4 coming into the second to last game of the regular season.
The Tigers will close out their regular season on the road against Dakota Ridge at 7 p.m. Friday.
Lakewood will find out what seed it will be for the state tournament on Sunday, when the 5A state brackets are released.
Standley Lake finishes off its regular season at 5:30 p.m. Friday with a home game against Pomona. The Gators are hoping their young squad will see their name in the bracket come Sunday.
“We do have a lot of young girls who are getting good experience against good teams,” Lopez said. “To see what this level looks like and what it takes is good for us.”