AURORA | For her last time playing on her home floor, things turned out to be especially memorable for Ashlyn Stapleton Tuesday night.

The only senior on a young, talented Vista PEAK girls basketball team had her emotions briefly get the best of her prior to the tip-off of a Class 5A first round state playoff game against 21st-seeded Standley Lake, but gathered herself and helped the 12th-seeded Bison advance to the Sweet 16.

Stapleton scored all 13 of her points in the second half as one of three double-digit scorers for Vista PEAK, which outscored the Gators 39-19 in the second half on its way to a 64-44 victory. Stapleton’s offensive output included three 3-pointers as she set the program record of 53 in a season.

“This is my last year, so it feels so good to get a win at home,” Stapleton said. “I felt great throughout the day, but during the National Anthem, my eyes started to water…I was nervous at the beginning that this game could be it, but then after halftime I calmed down.”

— Updated Class 5A girls state scoreboard & schedule, here

Sophomore Eianna Jackson added 19 points — 17 in the second half — and junior Mackenzie Griffin had 10 for coach Howard Payne’s Bison, who improved to 15-9 and earned a trip to fifth-seeded Mead Friday in 5A’s Sweet 16.

The Bison needed the widespread offensive attack to overcome explosive Standley Lake junior Taylin Serlen, the fourth-leading scorer in 5A who came into the game with an average of 20 points per game and ended up with 31 of her team’s 44.

Stapleton had eight 3-pointers in a game earlier this season — the program’s single game record — and the three in the postseason game gave her 53 for the season, which has pushed her in front of Bri Jefferson (who made 50 last season) in the school recordbook.

“Even though I had some games where shooting wasn’t on, I had some games when I was really hot,” Stapleton said. “It wasn’t the No. 1 thing on my mind. The No. 1 thing on my mind was win the game and if it came in the flow, that would make me happy. I’m glad it did.”

Payne was pleased to see his plan to speed up the Gators worked out, as he had his team press early and press late, when they were able to widen the gap in the fourth quarter. Serlen (who also had 17 rebounds) had 12 points in the final two quarters after going for 19 in the first two.

“We watched film of when they played D’Evelyn earlier and they had pressed like we did,” Payne said. “You could see in the second half that they didn’t have the legs and when you don’t have the legs, the shot is off. And we knew 32 (Serlen) wasn’t going to score enough to beat us.”

Next up for Vista PEAK is a road trip for a 6 p.m. contest Friday against Mead, which improved to 19-5 with a 50-34 win over Cheyenne Mountain in its opening contest.

Vista PEAK is the only Aurora qualifier in the 5A bracket, while four Aurora teams — Cherokee Trail, Eaglecrest (recap), Grandview and Regis Jesuit — earned wins in the opening round of the 6A state tournament.

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports


Score by quarters:

Standley Lake  11  14  12    7 — 44

Vista PEAK       12  13  19  20 — 64


Grace Nguyen 4 0-1 11, Bayleigh Walling 0 0-0 0, Kameron Mireles-Ciancio 0 0-0 0, Stella Abernethy 0 0-0 0, Taylin Serlen 13 3-4 31, Aaliyah Arviso 0 0-1 0, Genevieve Robertson 0 0-0 0, Sophia Ortega 1 0-1 2. Totals 18 3-7 44.


Eianna Jackson 8 2-5 19, Alliyah Thompson 2 1-2 5, Amirah Pena 3 1-2 9, Ashlyn Stapleton 4 2-2 13, Mackenzie Griffin 4 1-4 10, Knikia Starks 2 0-0 4, Amira Nance 1 0-0 2, Anecia Touissant 1 0-0 2. Totals 25 7-15 64.

3-pointers — Standley Lake (5): Grace Nguyen 3, Taylin Serlen 2. Vista PEAK (7): Ashlyn Stapleton 3, Amirah Pena 2, Mackenzie Griffin, Eianna Jackson. Total fouls — Standley Lake 14, Vista PEAK 13. Fouled out — None. Technical fouls — None.

Courtney Oakes is sports Editor and photographer with Sentinel Colorado. A Denver East High School alum. He came to the Sentinel in 2001 and since then has received a number of professional awards from...

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