It's never easy to look at the bright side of things following a loss. On March 6, the Pueblo West Cyclones suffered their worst and most shocking loss of the season.
The No. 2 Cyclones fell to No. 7 Holy Family 50-39 in the Class 4A Great 8. The loss ended their state championship hopes.
And while it was heartbreaking at the time, senior guard Hannah Simental can't help but think about all of the great things her team accomplished this year. A state championship ring wouldn't define the talent on the floor or the bond the team had throughout the course of the year.
A positive attitude, team-first mentality and undeniable skill on the court were just a few reasons why Simental was chosen as the 4A girls basketball player of the year.
"She's as good as anybody I've had the pleasure of coaching or coaching against," Cyclones coach Gil Lucero said. "Her numbers (this year) probably weren't as good as they were in previous years but that's because she did so much more that you didn't see on the stat sheet."
For Simental it's never about personal stats or accomplishments. She only wants success if she gets to share it with her friends and teammates. They've all relied on each other for years and even if they fell short on a goal, she never once felt like the team truly failed.
"We learned so much together," Simental said. "We learned what it took to become state champions. I felt like we did everything we needed to do and it just didn't go our way. But we have no regrets and we left it all out on the floor. That's the biggest lesson you can learn."
Lucero was right about one thing, Simental's numbers weren't quite what they were from her junior year. But there is a major tell on why when taking a deeper look. She scored nearly five fewer points per game which would indicate a decline in effectiveness. But she also took fewer shots on the season and her points-per-shot average held steady at 1.4.
But her assists were up and Lucero noted that her mentality on the floor was geared toward making sure it wasn't all about her.
"She got her teammates involved a lot this year," he said. "That was a big goal of hers."
It showed as sophomore Gabby Louther averaged over seven points per game and fellow senior Maya Sanchez added 6.8 per game.
They were hoping it would be enough to get to the Denver Coliseum, but the loss a week earlier to Holy Family derailed that plan. As hard as it was at the time, Simental can now look back at that game and find the good that came out of it.
"I think there are so many positives to take away from that game," Simental said. "We didn't win, but we never gave up as a team. I felt like my team stuck by me the whole way, even when we were down."
Next winter Simental will join her older siblings, Haley and David, as a college basketball player. She'll head to Greeley to suit up for the UNC Bears.
She learned very early in the recruiting process that UNC was the right fit for her and jumped at the scholarship offer that the Bears extended to her.
"They came for a home visit and when they came they just had really great values and they really persuaded me with their faith and just the way they want to coach," Sminetal told CHSAANow.com back in January.
She'll be working with a new coaching staff and with new teammates but she sees the opportunity as just the next step in her development as an athlete and person.
And that means each lesson she learned while playing at Pueblo West will travel north with her and will continue to play a role in her basketball life. But the most important lesson she's taking is that she needs to remain true to who she is. She needs to keep a positive attitude and team-first mentality.
"My parents always tell me that my positivity really shines," Simental said. "I"m going to keep doing that. I'm going to look toward the positives and cheer my teammates on, even if its a different group than my high school teammates."