Ralston Valley girls basketball gallops into 5A Sweet 16

ARVADA — Ralston Valley junior Sydney Bevington was a bit of a decoy early on Friday night in the Class 5A girls basketball second-round state tournament game.

No. 39-seeded Pine Creek had seen Bevington and No. 7 Mustangs earlier in the season. Knowing what one of the top juniors in the state — who is averaging a double-double in scoring and rebounds — is capable of the Eagles’ defense was clearly focused on shutting Bevington down.

Ralston Valley junior Sydney Bevington (33) goes up strong during the Mustangs' second-round state playoff victory over Pine Creek on Friday night. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“My shot wasn’t really on necessarily,” Bevington said after the Mustangs advanced to the Sweet 16 with a convincing 56-28 victory over Pine Creek. “Everyone else was making a lot of 3-pointers.”

Bevington went scoreless in the first quarter. However, juniors Rachel Meeks and McKenna Nichols, along with senior Ellie Schweiker each knocked down a 3-pointer in the opening quarter to help the Mustangs get out to a 16-6 lead.

“If you do that she (Bevington) will find the open person,” Ralston Valley coach Jeff Gomer said of the first quarter with the Eagles focusing on Bevington. “And we need those kids to hit those shots for us to go further.”

Bevington did get going herself offensively. The junior poured in 11 of her game-high 16 points in the second quarter as Ralston Valley opened up a 36-12 lead by halftime.

Sophomore Saya Sabus contributed 12 points and Schweiker finished with 11 points as the Mustangs put it on cruise control in the second half. The defense stayed strong, limiting Pine Creek to single digits in all but the Eagles’ 10-point fourth quarter.

Pine Creek senior Haley Murdock finished off her prep career scoring a team-high eight points for the Eagles (10-15 record).

Ralston Valley senior Ellie Schweiker (4) goes up strong against Pine Creek senior Haley Murdock during the first quarter Friday night. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“In practice a lot we focus on hard work on defense and playing hard,” Schweiker said. “If you have the right mentality the steals will come and shots will comes. It’s about playing hard on that side of the court.”

A hard non-league schedule is something Ralston Valley (19-5) hopes will benefit the Mustangs as they get deeper into the postseason. Four of Ralston Valley’s five losses this season came against the top four seeds — Valor Christian, Cherry Creek, Regis Jesuit and Grandview — in the 5A state tournament.

“I think it really prepared us,” Bevington said of playing the likes of Grandview and Cherry Creek. “They are just a different style of play then what we see in Jeffco. Playing that higher competition increases our speed of the game. That is why Gomer does it. To get us really for playoffs.”

Ralston Valley now gets ready to host a familiar foe in the next round on Tuesday night. Jeffco rival and No. 23 Columbine (15-10) went on the road against No. 10 Fountain-Fort Carson on Friday night. The Rebels won 51-39 in overtime.

“I would be excited to see Columbine again,” Bevington said before the Rebels pulled off the upset against Fountain-Fort Carson. “Their coach always makes adjustments, but we always seem to pull out the win.”

The Mustangs went 2-0 against the Rebels this season. However, both games were fairly close contests.

“They gave us two games,” Gomer said when asked about possibility of facing Columbine again. “We’ve just got to play well. If we play well we’ll move on. I don’t like playing someone three times, but it is what it is.”

Ralston Valley junior McKenna Nichols (12) soars toward the basket with Pine Creek senior Haley Murdock (55) and Madelyn Blazo (5) guard her Friday night. The Mustangs' 56-28 victory advanced Ralston Valley into the Sweet 16 where it will host Jeffco rival Columbine on Tuesday night. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)