LAKEWOOD — Green Mountain’s girls basketball team found itself in a situation Tuesday night it hasn’t been all season.
The No. 2-seeded Rams were locked in a tied game midway through the fourth quarter against No. 7 Erie in the Class 4A state quarterfinal. Green Mountain (17-0 record) had won every game by double-digits this year, but the Tigers were giving the Rams their toughest test of the season.
“Erie is so well-coached, so tough and so good at so many things,” Green Mountain coach Darren Pitzner said. “They have counters to everything. They have so many weapons.”
Erie junior Grace Moyers converted a 3-point play with 4:54 left in the fourth quarter to tie things up 44-44, but with 3:30 left in the final quarter Green Mountain sophomore Jayda Maves hit maybe the biggest 3-pointer of her prep career to put the Rams ahead for good.
“I just want to thank Connie (Green Mountain assistant coach Connie Ireland),” an emotional Maves said after the Rams took a 58-50 victory to advance to the 4A state semifinals for the second straight season. “She is always lifting me up and always there for me. I missed four 3s and she just said, ‘Keep shooting. We need you.’ There just are words to describe how much she means to me.”
Maves had struggled with her shot not scoring in the second or third quarters, but the sophomore came through in crunch-time.
“She probably takes more shots in practice than anyone else in Jeffco,” Pitzner said of Maves. “That is the result. You hit those shots that help us advance to the Final 4. I’m extremely proud of her.”
Junior Avery Oaster (16 points) and senior Courtney Hank (12 points) both had a pair of baskets in the final three minutes to keep the Tigers (13-4) at bay. Green Mountain made seven free-throw in the final minute and held Erie to just two points in the final 2:41 of the game.
Junior Shea Murphy (12 points) poured in a pair of free-throws for good measure in the closing seconds before the Rams celebrated another history victory during their current remarkable two-year run.
“I think deep down that we would respond,” Oaster said of playing in a tight game for the first time this year. “I was pretty confident we would have our runs.”
Oaster did most of her damage offensively in the first half. The junior scored a dozen points before halftime to counter Erie’s hot shooting from outside. Moyers, junior Deb Altshuler and Genevieve Gudino combined for six 3-pointers on the night for the Tigers.
Erie just couldn’t knock down big shots late in the fourth quarter and Green Mountain’s pressure defense forced some turnovers to allow the Rams to punch their ticket to another Final 4.
“We just kept our composure,” Maves said. “I think that is what helped us in the fourth quarter. We just kept calm and played our game that we know how to play.”
Green Mountain knows its state semifinal opponents will be another huge test. No. 3 Windsor (15-1) throttled No. 6 George Washington 75-35 in another quarterfinal Tuesday. A COVID-19 benefit for the Rams will be that all state semifinals will be played at the higher-seed this season instead of down at the Denver Coliseum.
The Rams lost to Holy Family down at the Coliseum last season in the semifinals.
“Having home-court advantage is one of the biggest things,” Maves said. “We know how Windsor just beat George Washington by 40 points. We know we are going to have to step up our game.”
Last season was the Rams’ first trip ever to the state semifinals. To earn a return trip is something Pitzner is extremely proud of what his girls, coaching staff and Green Mountain family has achieved.
“What they have accomplished is historic for this program,” Pitzner said of the back-to-back state semifinal appearances. “They believed the whole time that we could go back to the Final 4.”