BOULDER | They’ll talk about this special season when they meet up in the future, but the Regis Jesuit girls basketball team had plenty of time to savor the final moments Saturday.
By thoroughly dominating Fossil Ridge from the opening tip-off of the Class 5A state championship game at the Coors Events Center, coach Carl Mattei and his Raiders had the luxury of soaking in the final moments together of what is arguably the most dominant season of girls basketball seen in Colorado.
Regis Jesuit scored the first 12 points of the game against the SaberCats and kept its foot on the gas pedal for the duration in a 60-34 victory that secured the second straight 5A title and third in program history. It was the resounding end to the careers of seven seniors — six headed to play Division I basketball — and it ended the right way.
“It’s kind of bittersweet to know that we got back-to-back state championships, but that’s the last time we’ll be playing together as a team,” senior Kelsi Lidge said. “It’s just so happy and so sad and so exciting. Just every emotion.”
Against Fossil Ridge, Regis Jesuit’s top scorers came through — senior Diani Akigbogun poured in a game-high 21 points and senior Justine Hall added 16 — and all the Raiders’ other valuable parts did their jobs as they became the first repeat state champion in 5A girls basketball since Highlands Ranch won three consecutive titles between 2006 and 2008.
Regis Jesuit also upheld the Continental League’s dominance in terms of 5A titles, claiming the 13th crown for the conference in the past 15 seasons.
Coach Carl Mattei saw his group win last season’s 5A state championship in what he called a “rebuilding year” at the beginning, then watched nearly the entire group return and play even better and more determined this season.
Regis Jesuit finished 26-2 overall and suffered its only two losses of the season to out of state teams Mater Dei (Calif.) at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix and Incarnate Word Academy in St. Louis.
Nobody in Colorado could keep up with the Raiders, who won the 21 games they played against state foes by an average of 39.6 points per game. Regis Jesuit’s average margin of victory in five postseason games was 32.6 points.
“Especially winning it last year, the question always is, will they be as hungry the next year?” Mattei said. “They came back almost with something to prove and they kept after it and after it and after it.”
Determined to play better than two days earlier in the semifinals — a 58-35 victory over Poudre that came at the end of a distraction-filled week — the Raiders came out and hung the first 12 points on the SaberCats, who played in a state championship game for the first time.
A big start was very important to set the tone and Regis Jesuit did just that, holding Fossil Ridge to just two field goals in the entire first half.
“We knew they were going to come out really hard, so we had to come out harder and push back,” Hall said. “We really gave it our all. …It was good to have a more relaxed game and not have it be so close and nervous. It was fun.”
The Raiders’ lead never dropped below 18 points the rest of the way and Akigbogun helped expand the advantage with her play in the second half.
After scoring just two points in the first half, the University of Texas signee poured in 19 points in the final two quarters, including 12 of Regis Jesuit’s 16 points in the fourth.
The senior starters — Akigbogun, Hall, Lidge and Anna Ptasinski — got to spend the final two minutes of the game on the bench, admiring what they had done.
“I think for us, we were going to enjoy this game anyway,” Akigbogun said. “We wanted to make it something exciting for our fans and for our coach, so that we know we made our mark here. We were able to show we are a good team and our legacy is still here.”
After graduation, the seniors will move to separate places around the country — Hall is headed to Purdue, Akigbogun to Texas, Lidge to Drexel, Ptasinski to Layafette, Molyneaux to Seton Hall and Lockley to Howard — but the bonds created with this team expect to stand the test of time.
Many of them have known each other and played together since grade school — which is obvious in the way they play together on the court — and don’t plan to let something like distance come between them.
Lidge, Ptasinski and Molyneaux — who will all be at East Coast schools — already have plans to meet up next year in New York City. The rest expect to see each other somewhere down the line, possibly even in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
“I would say we’re all going to talk when we go our seperate ways,” Hall said. “We’ll still be friends and going to each other’s weddings in the future I’m sure.
“That’s what makes this team really special, how much chemistry we have and how much we love each other.”
Added Lockley: “These girls are all a part of my heart. Even the least close player to me on this team is my family.
We have each other’s back 100 percent. I’m sure we’ll hear about each other and call each other and support each other in the future because that’s how we’ve always been.”
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel
(1) REGIS JESUIT 60, (1) FOSSIL RIDGE 34
Score by quarters:
Fossil Ridge 3 10 11 10 — 34
Regis Jesuit 19 12 13 16 — 60
FOSSIL RIDGE (34)
Sami Steffeck 0 0-0 0, Savannah Smith 2 10-13 16, Natalie Williams 0 0-2 0, Kellee Willer 3 5-8 12, Brooke Pemberton 1 4-6 6, Jaelynn Clark 0 0-2 0, Jordan Prosser 0 0-0 0, Karen Smith 0 0-0 0, Heather Kahl 0 0-0 0, Karen Smith 0 0-0 0, Regan Wess 0 0-0 0. Totals 6 19-33 34.
REGIS JESUIT (60)
Justine Hall 7 0-0 16, Jess Lewis 1 0-0 2, Anna Ptasinski 3 0-0 8, Diani Akigbogun 7 7-12 21, Kelsi Lidge 3 0-0 7, Jordan Molyneaux 2 0-0 4, Neffie Lockley 1 0-0 2, TaeKenya Cleveland 0 0-0 0, Cheyenne Cleveland 0 0-2 0, Julia Drexelius 0 0-0 0, Maggie Grossiant 0 0-0 0, Zeke Johnson 0 0-0 0. Totals 24 7-14 60.
3-point field goals — Fossil Ridge (3): Savannah Smith 2, Kellee Willer; Regis Jesuit (5): Justine Hall 2, Anna Ptasinski 2, Kelsi Lidge. Total fouls — Fossil Ridge 15, Regis Jesuit 25. Fouled out — None. Technical fouls — None.