DENVER -- In its three Class 5A state playoff victories, Regis Jesuit’s girls basketball team has outscored opponents by a combined total of 124 points.
Even with that success though, the Raiders have not let up on the gas. The players continue to fight for every basket, every rebound, every loose ball.
“I think that just says how much fight we have and how much desire we have to just be the best and give it our all,” Regis Jesuit senior Justine Hall said after the defending state champions moved into the state semifinals with a 72-31 victory over Lakewood on Thursday at the Denver Coliseum. “Especially as seniors and this being our last year, we just want to leave it all on the court.”
The Raiders (24-2) will play Poudre (21-5) on March 13 at CU Events Center in Boulder.
While Regis Jesuit has experience playing at the Coliseum, Lakewood (24-2) hadn’t been to the Great 8 since the 2008 season. The Tigers were coming off a hard-fought victory over 2013 state runner-up Highlands Ranch on Tuesday but were just 10-of-48 shooting from the field against Regis.
“It’s very difficult to come off such a big win, beating Highlands Ranch, and then going back-to-back 48 hours,” Raiders coach Carl Mattei said. “And on this stage too.”
Diani Akigbogun led Regis with a game-high 21 points and 13 rebounds. Hall added 16 points and Jordan Molyneaux contributed 13.
The Raiders forced 21 turnovers and out-rebounded Lakewood 49-32, taking advantage of a healthy size advantage inside.
“We were just penetrating and getting it into our bigs,” Hall said. “It was working, so it was a good advantage.”
Lakewood didn’t knock down its first field goal until three minutes, 40 seconds remained in the first quarter and trailed by 17 points going into the second quarter. Mattei said the key was shutting down Lakewood guards McKenna Bishop and Mackenzie Forrest.
“Our kids are going to come out and play right in your face and get after it defensively,” Mattei said. “That inspires us to get going.”
Jessica Brooks led the Tigers with eight points and seven rebounds and Bishop added seven points and nine boards. Lakewood has only two seniors on its roster, with the rest of the team consisting of sophomores and freshmen. The experience will prove to be an asset for the Tigers in the coming seasons.
That’s the recipe Regis Jesuit has used after reaching the finals in 2011 before winning it all a year ago.
“We know we just have to take it game-by-game and give it our all,” Hall said. “Just come out as hard as we can, and when we do that, we’re good.”