AURORA | They met in December, but the Grandview and Regis Jesuit girls basketball teams will be completely different when they enter the rematch Thursday night.
The Wolves and Raiders won their respective Class 5A Great 8 playoff games March 3 at the Denver Coliseum to set up a semifinal showdown to decide which Aurora team will play for the 5A state championship March 11.
Grandview looked the part of championship contender since the first game of the season and beat Regis Jesuit by 28 points in the first meeting, but the Raiders have gained an immeasurable amount of confidence since then. How much difference that makes will be decided at 7 p.m. March 9 when the teams meet in the semfinals at the Denver Coliseum.
“We’re a much different team since we played them before, so I know we can do it this time,” Regis Jesuit junior Emma Wrede said after knocking down some big shots later in the 11th-seeded Raiders’ 53-46 upset of No. 3 Horizon in the Great 8.
Coach Carl Mattei’s Regis Jesuit team completed a quarterfinal round that saw three upsets in four games, as No. 12 Cherry Creek knocked off No. 4 Ralston Valley and No. 9 Lakewood shocked No. 1 Highlands Ranch.
Of the four remaining teams, only Regis Jesuit has ever won a state championship, as Mattei’s program has three to its credit. Cherry Creek has made a championship game, but never won, while Grandview and Lakewood seek their first title shots. The Bruins and Tigers meet in other Thursday semifinal at 8:30 p.m.
The Raiders feel confident they can get a chance to win state title No. 4 with sophomore Fran Belibi continuing to come into her own, Wrede knocking down clutch shots, freshman Jada Moore making good decisions and senior Korynne Chaney lending an encouraging, veteran presence.
There’s also a bit of chip on Regis Jesuit’s shoulder.
“We’re actually doing what I thought was possible, but I felt like everybody was doubting us and telling us what we couldn’t do,” Chaney said.
Second-seeded Grandview managed to stave off an early upset bid by No. 7 Doherty to become the lone favored team to win.
The Wolves definitely took note of the upsets of Highlands Ranch and Ralston Valley that took place before their game and it helped instill the urgency they know they’ll face against any opponent left.
“It gives us some perspective that the rankings don’t mean anything at all at this point,” senior Michaela Onyenwere said. “Everybody comes here to play and everybody knows its one and done. They want it just as bad as we do.”
While Grandview has possible upsets on its radar, coach Josh Ulitzky’s Wolves put on a good display of how good they can be in their win over the Spartans. Rallying from an 11-5 deficit early, Grandview posted its second straight 88-point effort in the playoffs.
Junior guard Jaiden Galloway poured in a career-high 29 points and showed herself as yet another weapon opponents must contend with when dealing with Grandview.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel