DENVER — St. Mary's repeated as the Class 3A girls basketball state champion, topping Colorado Springs Christian for the second year in a row.
The Pirates won, 56-34.
St. Mary's held the dynamic duo of CSCS seniors Megan Engesser and Rachel Ingram in check. Each scored 10 points. The Pirates did their work in a different way offensively, using continued ball movement and team-work as they ran away in the second half.
“They’re two players we have schemed against for four years so now maybe we can rest, but there is always somebody on the horizon,” said St. Mary's coach Mike Burkett.
While lone senior Mackenzie Pepper leaving the proud St. Mary’s program, the rest of the talented squad will be back for the Pirates next season. Pepper left her imprint on the program by doing a lot of the dirty work, and her guidance and effort has left her mark on her younger teammates.
“In 2013 we got second in the state championship, and she (Pepper) told her mom and dad (when she was 12), ‘I want to play basketball for St. Mary’s.’ So sure enough, here she is winning two state championships,” Burkett said. “She has been important not only as a captain but helping guide the team. She just plays solid, plays consistent and that’s what we love about her.”
The Pirates took control of the contest on defense. They held an explosive 3-point group to six percent shooting from long-range and 38 percent overall. St. Mary's used these missed shots into offensive opportunities to get out and run.
However, when the game was slowed down in the half-court set, St. Mary's shot well, at 45 percent over and 54 percent from 3-point. They also hit on 89 percent from the free-throw line.
St. Mary’s junior Catherine Cummings recorded nine points and nine rebounds. With four of the team's five starters returning, Cummings is excited for now, but also what could be coming.
“They (2018 and 2019 teams) were both really hard for different reasons," Cummings said postgame about repeating as champions. “I think because we are a different team, similar, but in different ways. This year was a different motivation. We have a lot of experience, a lot of juniors on this team and a lot of people coming up, so I think we are already working for our next one.”
Junior Seneca Hackley (18 points) led St. Mary's in scoring. That was followed by freshman Ellie Hartman, who shot 6-for-8 from the field and tallied 16 points (11 in the first half).
“She’s very important, really has been all year,” Burkett said of Hartman. “She’s been one of those kinds of kids who’s a gym-rat. We were happy to have her, especially after losing some players last year.”