LAKEWOOD -- A motivated Lakewood girls basketball team made a statement in the second round of the Class 5A state tournament Friday night.
The Tigers (23-1) doubled-up No. 7-seeded Doherty with a score of 62-31, advancing the No. 2 seed from the Rhonda Blanford-Green Region into the Sweet 16. The 5A Jeffco League champions were a little miffed with being put in the same side of the bracket as defending state champion Regis (22-2) and last year’s state runner-up Highlands Ranch (20-4).
“A lot of teams don’t give us the credit I think we deserve,” Lakewood senior Jessica Brooks said after scoring a game-high 18 points against Doherty. “It feels great to show people that they are wrong and we are a really good team.”
Lakewood will host No. 3-seeded Highlands Ranch on Tuesday, March 4, at Lakewood High School in the Sweet 16. Highlands Ranch easy handled Cherokee Trail, 91-53, on Friday night in another second-round game.
Highlands Ranch eliminated Lakewood from the state tournament in the round of 16 last season. The Falcons ended the Tigers’ postseason run with a 60-40 defeat. Highlands Ranch eventually finished as the state runner-up to Regis.
“It was going to happen anyways. It just comes a little early,” Lakewood coach Chris Poisson said of facing the Falcons in the Sweet 16. “Highlands Ranch is a different team. We are a different team. We are both younger. We aren’t going to talk about the past.”
The Tigers are attempting to duplicate its deep run in the state tournament Lakewood had in 2008. Lakewood advanced to the state quarterfinals before losing to ThunderRidge.
Lakewood’s road won’t be easy. The region could be considered the deepest of the four regions. The top three seeds in the region -- Regis, Lakewood and Highlands Ranch -- were ranked first, third and seventh in the final CHSAANow.com 5A girls basketball poll.
Top-seed Regis handled Rocky Mountain 67-32 on Friday. Ralston Valley (20-5) is next up for the defending state champs. The No. 5-seeded Mustangs scored a 73-37 road victory at No. 4 seed Brighton on Friday. Regis will host Ralston Valley on Tuesday night.
Lakewood never trailed against Doherty on Friday night. The Tigers led 30-12 at halftime thanks to a huge first half from Brooks and sophomore McKenna Bishop. The duo combined for 20 points in the first half.
“Jess (Brooks) and Big Mac (Bishop) were great down low,” Poisson said. “They dominated and everyone else played the way they needed to play.”
Doherty was focused keeping Lakewood’s leading scorer Mackenzie Forrest in check. The Spartans (11-13) used a box-and-one defense, limiting her to four points. The sophomore guard was never able to get on track offensively because of foul trouble. She eventually fouled out with 6:36 left in the fourth quarter.
“We knew we wanted to shutdown 33 (Forrest). If we could take away 20 points per game we felt like we had a chance,” Doherty coach Pat McKiernan said. “We just couldn’t shoot the ball.”
Senior Mariah Willey led the Spartans in scoring with eight points. Doherty was limited to single-digit points in three of the four quarters.
Doherty had a little run early in the third quarter to cut Lakewood’s lead to 35-21, but the Tigers quickly responded with a 12-0 run to push the lead to 26 points before the start of the fourth quarter.
Lakewood turned Forrest’s foul trouble into a positive. Sophomores Marissa Morton, Marisela Perez, Madeline Miller and Madeleine Coughlin all had strong games. Senior Gabby Carbone contributed a trio of 3-pointers in the Tigers’ 12th straight victory.
“It gave an opportunity and everyone stepped up,” Poisson said of having Forrest playing limited minutes. “Everyone played better defense. Everyone made key shots.”