ARVADA — It’s a safe bet the girls basketball Class 5A Jeffco League championship will go through Lakewood and/or Ralston Valley.
Lakewood or Ralston Valley has captured the conference title six of the previous seven years. The Tigers, ranked No. 7 in this week's CHSAANow.com poll, prevented the Mustangs from taking a four-peat last season. Lakewood rolled to a 16-0 league mark on its way to a 5A state quarterfinal appearance a year ago.
“It was my motivation for this year. Last year losing both games (to Lakewood), it was my main focus for this year,” Ralston Valley senior Morgan Nishida said of losing twice to the Tigers.
The two Jeffco powerhouses squared off Friday night in their first of two scheduled league tilts this winter. A 28-point second quarter for Ralston Valley (8-4, 4-0 in league) on its home court provided plenty of cushion as the Mustangs went on to a 69-41 victory over the Tigers (8-5, 3-1).
“It snowballed,” Lakewood coach Chris Poisson said of second quarter where the Mustangs’ outscored the Tigers 28-11. “Ralston Valley is really good. We talked about if you leave them open they are going to stick it in our eye, and they did. They played great. Give them credit.”
The Mustangs opened up a 40-19 halftime advantage. Nishida led the way with 10 points before the break. Sophomores Ashley Van Sickle, Sydney Prey and freshman MaKena Prey combined for 24 points in the opening half.
Nearly everything was working offensively for Ralston Valley in the opening half. The Mustangs drained four 3-pointers, Nishida sliced through Lakewood’s defense and MaKena Prey dominated down low.
“We got a big lift from the freshman (MaKena Prey) off the bench. She gave us a huge lift,” Ralston Valley coach Jeff Gomer said. “We were in attack mode. Defensively we were really good in the first half.”
Junior Hannah Weber poured in seven points in the third quarter to keep things going for the Mustangs. Ralston Valley eventually extended its lead to 30 points in the fourth quarter.
The Mustangs finished with 25 field goals compared to Lakewood’s 13 made shots for the game.
“I always try to keep the team going, keep the team up and focused,” said Nishida, the lone senior for the Mustangs. “That’s my role on the court.”
The Mustangs finished with three players in double-figures. Nishida (13 points), MaKena Prey (13 points) and Van Sickle (10 points). Sydney Prey and sophomore Chloe Gillach came close with nine points each in the fourth straight win for Ralston Valley.
“We don’t have kids who are some of the top scorers, but I’ve got six or seven kids who can go for 20 points on any night,” Gomer said.
Lakewood’s leading scorer was junior McKenna Bishop. She finished as the lone Tiger in double-digits with a game-high 18 points. One of the best shooting guards in the state, Lakewood junior Mackenzie Forrest, was held to just three points.
“We’ve got to learn from everything. You’d like to learn from a win,” Poisson said after Lakewood had its five-game winning streak snapped. “It will motivate this group. I’m not worried. It’s probably good for us in the long run.”
Lakewood hosts Dakota Ridge at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 21. Ralston Valley’s next game is a road trip to Bear Creek High School on Wednesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
“It gives us a leg up, that’s all it does,” Gomer said of beating Lakewood the first go-around. “You can’t get too full of yourselves. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’ve improved a lot since December. We are starting to get our wheels a little bit.”