EVERGREEN — Evergreen’s girls basketball team added to its impressive resume Tuesday night.
The Cougars, No. 4 in the latest Class 4A CHSAANow.com girls basketball rankings, wrapped up their second straight 4A Jeffco League title with a dominating 54-11 win over visiting Wheat Ridge.
“It feels really good,” Evergreen sophomore guard Nicole Levine said. “I think we can settle down now and relax. We’ll have fun these last few (regular-season) games.”
The conference plaque will join last year’s league title, along with Evergreen’s back-to-back 4A state titles from the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Not to mention 4A state runner-up trophy from 2016 that the Cougars grabbed to start their impressive run to the top of the 4A girls basketball in the state.
“People thought we were going to be really down this year,” Evergreen first-year head coach Maddy Hornecker said after the Cougars (18-3, 11-0 in league) celebrated on their home court with the conference trophy. “I told the girls teams were going to come gunning for us, but they could still do it. It’s really awesome to have that league championship.”
Hornecker took over the helm of coaching the Cougars this season. Amy Bahl decided to step away from coaching last spring to spend more time with her growing family which added a third daughter a few months ago.
Bahl had a 122-37 record (76.7 winning percentage) over six years at Evergreen. While it’s a much smaller sample size, Hornecker has the Cougars with a 18-3 record (85.7 winning percentage) in her first season and with two regular-season games remaining.
“We came into the season really not know what would happen,” Evergreen senior Claudia Dillon said referring to the Cougars graduating eight seniors last year.
It has been a good thing to have Dillon on the court for four seasons. The future Division I volleyball player at the University of Missouri has played in three 4A state championship games. Evergreen has a 93-12 record since Dillon put on a Cougar jersey.
This season Dillon went over 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds during her prep career.
“It’s been incredible. We (seniors) have been waiting for this day for quite a few years,” Dillon said after the Cougars celebrated Senior Night. “It was cool to get the 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 points. That was kind of a big milestone for me. I personally didn’t think I’d hit that during my career coming in my freshman year.”
Dillon led the Cougars with a dozen points against Wheat Ridge (8-13, 0-9) despite playing only about 10 minutes. Evergreen jumped out to an early 20-0 lead with Dillon, her younger sister — Hayley Dillon — and Levine combining for 22 points in the opening quarter.
Junior Avery Leinen pitched in nine points off the bench as 10 different Cougars scored in Evergreen’s fifth straight victory.
“We knew coming in we had to focus on this one and winning league,” Hornecker said. “Now we have to focus on the next two we have. Obviously tomorrow is pretty big.”
Evergreen is scheduled to host No. 5 Holy Family (15-5) in a non-league game at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12. The Cougars close out their regular season and conference play with a good home test against Green Mountain (15-6, 8-2) at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13. The Rams are currently on an eight-game winning streak.
With two games getting postponed last week, Evergreen faced the challenge of playing four games in four days. The Cougars defeated Golden by 20 points Monday night.
The Cougars’ postseason veteran has plenty of history to lean on as Evergreen attempt a fourth straight long playoff run that will begin next week.
“That this point we’ll be a pretty high seed with a league championship is pretty good,” Claudia Dillon said. “We still have a lot to do on our end going into playoffs. It isn’t going to be easy going into playoffs. We know that from years past.”