At the conclusion of the 2013-14 boys basketball season, Highland was anything but a dominant team. The Class 2A program based in Ault finished with a disappointing 7-16 record.

The mighty had fallen.

The Huskies had seen basketball success before. They had seen the highest of basketball success before. Back in 2000, they beat Weld Central 58-47 in the 3A state title game. They were champions.

Fast forward 14 years. They won a single Patriot League game. Seven games during the course of the entire season.

Fast forward three more years. They are undefeated. They are the No. 1-ranked team in the state. They have the chance to accomplish something special only two years after a poor season.

Highland boys basketball

Coach Efrin Perez. (Emily Clayton/Highland High School)

"This is my fifth year here at Highland," coach Efrin Perez said. "The first few years there were a lot of growing pains."

But then something just kind of happened. There was no gradual increase in the number of the wins. They went from 7-16 to going 19-4 in 2014-15.

Kids like Cole Rouse, who were freshmen on a losing team, decided that no longer would Highland struggle to reach double-digits in the win column.

"Our freshman year, we didn't do very well," Rouse said. "It felt great to start winning."

This isn't something that happened because a particular class just happens to have a talented group of basketball players. This season, the Huskies are seeing contributions from all classes. Rouse, Reese Anderson and Will Overton might be the three senior leaders, but sophomore Koby Anderson and junior Trey Allmon are every bit at vital to the success of the team.

Perez notes that even freshman Tate Bessire is starting to pull his weight.

And they all do it on both sides of the ball. Highland can score in bunches, but the players truly believe that defense will ultimately lead to whatever success they finish with this season.

Highland boys basketball

Reese Anderson. (Emily Clayton/Highland High School)

"Everybody is comfortable with this system, they enjoy it," Perez said. "Defense is what we hang our hat on and it really draws everything. You usually don't have to work very hard to make everyone love the offensive end, it's the defensive end that you have to convince them that they can take pride in it."

The Huskies give up only 42 points per game compared to the nearly 70 that they're scoring. They've fallen short of the state tournament these last few years, but with more experience under their belt it's hard not to look at the 2000 state championship banner and believe they can put one up right beside it.

"We've been really focused to get that state tournament," Rouse said. "We haven't been there yet. We just realize that we can make it to state and we can play with anybody."

They'll find out if that's true on Friday night when they host No. 4 Akron. A win of that magnitude will certainly go a long way in giving the Huskies validation of their top ranking.

"It's No. 1 vs. No. 4," Rouse said. "They're a good team and it's going to test our ability to be able to play with the best. That'll help us win come tournament time."

Highland boys basketball

Cole Rouse. (Emily Clayton/Highland High School)