By Joshua Cole
Seven minutes. That’s how long it took for Heritage High School point guard Sullivan Ziegler to adjust to the lights and longer basketball court at the Denver Coliseum.
After that, Ziegler was in control, driving Heritage to the 5A classification girls’ basketball playoffs state semifinals.
Heritage defeated Chaparral High School, 58-48, in the quarterfinals, March 6, to advance to the semifinals at the University of Colorado-Boulder.
Ziegler, a senior, had six turnovers in the first seven minutes of the game as Heritage fell behind 8-1 and then 12-7 to their league opponents. After that, though, she was nearly flawless directing play. On the possession following her sixth turnover, with only 25 seconds remaining in the first period, she rebounded a missed Chaparral shot and sprinted up the court. With three Chaparral defenders blocking her path to the basket, Ziegler stopped at the free-throw line, pivoted around and zipped a pass to teammate Lauren Huggins, who drained a three-pointer to get within two points.
“I was really nervous. I know I shouldn’t have been,” Ziegler said. “After I came out, I took some deep breaths and realized that I’m never going to have an opportunity like this. I calmed down, and we pulled it out. This was exciting. I loved it.”
Meanwhile, as Ziegler was keeping better control, in the second period Heritage’s defense forced five Chaparral turnovers after the Wolverines hadn’t given the ball away at all in the first period. Chaparral point guard
Katie Shepard threw the ball away three times in the second period.
Also, whereas Ziegler got stronger as the game progressed, Shepard tired out due to Heritage’s hounding defense. Heritage pressed a defender on Shepard for every inbounds, forcing Shepard to run to halfcourt instead of walking it up each play.
Shepard fouled out early in the fourth period on consecutive plays when Ziegler ran next to her with the ball, which forced the fatigued Shepard to reach in and slow down
Heritage’s point guard. With Shepard and Chaparral forward Melissa Ray on the bench indefinitely early in the fourth period after both of them had fouled out, Heritage’s offense was unstoppable and Chaparral’s offense was wounded, clueless and timid. Heritage extended a one-point lead late in the third period to 13 points in four minutes starting when Ray was whistled for her fourth foul late in the third.
Heritage center Kim Lockridge benefited the most from Chaparral’s loss of leadership and size – and she had contributed most to it as well by getting Ray in foul trouble and intimidating the rest of Chaparral’s defenders from playing tougher against her. In the second half, Lockridge scored 14 of her 19 points and pulled down 9 of her 15 rebounds. She made her final six shots of the game as Chaparral players backed off and didn’t foul her. She also sealed the game with an assist to forward Molly Rogan in the final minute.
“She always comes out for big games,” Ziegler said. “We needed her today more than we’ve ever needed her.” Huggins’ shooting helped Heritage stay close in the first half and early third quarter. She finished with 15 points, 10 in the first half. Rogan provided an extra threat on the other side of Lockridge. Rogan had 10 points total, with six points and a steal in the fourth quarter.
Heritage had defeated Grand Junction Central, 59-43, on the Western Slope, in the third round of the playoffs to get to the quarterfinals.
Heritage was scheduled to play Denver East High School in the state semifinals, March 10, after The Villager went to press. The winner is scheduled to play in the championship game against Legacy or Monarch high school, March 12, at the Coors Events Center, in Boulder.
On Jan. 14, Heritage lost to East, 67-63. Heritage didn’t play Legacy or Monarch. East defeated Highlands Ranch, 62-51, in the quarterfinals to get to the state semifinals.
Heritage won a girls’ basketball title in 1996. Heritage hasn’t won a girls’ state team title in any sport since 2000. East, Legacy and Monarch haven’t won a state title in girls’ basketball.
Heritage advanced to the state semifinals for the first time since 2002, when the team lost to ThunderRidge High School in the state championship game.
Regis Jesuit falls against Monarch
Monarch High School prevented Regis Jesuit High School’s girls’ basketball team from repeating as state champions with a 58-46 win in the state basketball quarterfinals, March 6. The No. 1 -seed Coyotes, of Louisville, erased a 10-point halftime lead in the first minute of the fourth period and took a lead that the team never relinquished shortly afterward.
Regis Jesuit, with seven players on its 12-girl roster listed as 6-foot or taller, stormed out to an early lead by pushing Monarch to the perimeter – Regis Jesuit players’ long arms intercepting passes or forcing bad passes and gobbling up rebounds while playing in a zone defense. In the first half, Regis Jesuit forced 16 turnovers as Monarch attempted only 16 shots, making five in scoring only 17 points. Meanwhile, Regis’s offense was more efficient, getting to the free throw line 10 times and making 9 of 20 field goals.
But in the second half, the smaller team attacked Regis Jesuit’s inside oak trees. In the third period, although Regis Jesuit disrupted Monarch’s field goal percentage – Monarch made only 4 of 15 shots in period and Regis got two blocks – Monarch went to the free throw line 10 times, forced seven turnovers and grabbed six offensive rebounds to get within striking distance before taking the lead. Regis took only eight shots and shot three free throws.
In the fourth period, Monarch – which has only three of 12 players listed taller than 5-foot-7 – continued to pound Regis Jesuit inside. Regis Jesuit’s starting 6-foot-3 center Megan O’Neil and starting 6-foot guard Janae Hall both fouled out in the first two and a half minutes, and Monarch went to the free throw line for 18 shots in the period – most of them before Regis Jesuit purposely fouled in the last two minutes.
Regis Jesuit finished its season with a 18-8 record. Regis Jesuit had made it to at least the state semifinals for five consecutive seasons, from 2005-2009.
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