AURORA | In light of last season’s 17-point loss to Highlands Ranch, anything in the win column would have looked good to the Regis Jesuit girls basketball team in the rematch between the teams.
Coach Carl Mattei’s Raiders didn’t earn a lot of style points for Thursday night’s 37-34 victory over the Falcons in a Continental League clash at the Regis Jesuit Boys Division, but earned some payback from last season and moved into an advantageous spot in the league standings.
Sophomore Jada Moore scored 12 points, junior Fran Belibi added 10 and freshman Avery Vansickle finished with seven — including two clutch free throws with 15.6 seconds left — and Regis Jesuit came away with a defensively-driven victory to improve to 14-3 overall and 4-0 in the Continental League.
“This was kindof a statement game after what they did to us last year,” Mattei said, referring to Highlands Ranch’s 59-42 win last season.
“It’s nice to be able to beat them and hopefully we’ll move up in the RPI, maybe to No. 10,” he added.
Mattei said the Raiders worked on several facets of their defense during their out-of-state trips — including their most recent foray to the Classic in the Country in Ohio — to prepare specifically for Highlands Ranch and some of Colorado’s other top teams.
Regis Jesuit’s defensive focus paid off as it held coach Caryn Jarocki’s Falcons (14-4, 4-1) to 11 points fewer than their previous season-low.
“Defense is the biggest thing in winning championships and we’ve been working really hard on that,” said Mattei, whose team is allowing just 36.7 points per game thus far.
“Our man-to-man, jumping through screens; we’ve been really preparing out of state for them,” he added. “If you think about our league and going against Ranch and Castle View, and you’ve got Grandview, but it drops off a lot. We tried to play a lot of great teams to get ready.”
Highlands Ranch came out hot and held a four-point lead early in the second quarter, but back-to-back hoops by Olivia Ayers and Moore tied it up and the Raiders built a three-point edge at halftime.
The Falcons managed just one field goal in a four-point third quarter — which came inside the final minute — but Regis Jesuit scored just two more for a five-point lead.
Senior Jasmine Gaines connected on a 3-pointer on the opening possession of the fourth quarter to give the Raiders their largest edge at eight points.
The Falcons finally got some shots to drop in the final period and got as close as one point three times, but never got into the lead.
Regis Jesuit had to battle through the loss of Belibi — its leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker — for long stretches due to foul trouble and pleased Mattei with how they picked up in her absence.
Moore finished 0-for-4 from the free throw line in the game and missed three times inside the final 10.4 seconds, but so did Highlands Ranch’s Tommi Olson.
The Falcons never got up a shot before the final buzzer.
“I really wanted to make those free throws, but I knew my teammates had my back if I didn’t,” said Moore, who made two free throws in the final seconds to lift Regis Jesuit over Grandview Dec. 11.
“I’m just really proud of my team and how we played as whole,” she continued. “We went in focused and did well.”
Regis Jesuit goes on the road to face the other undefeated Continental League team, Castle View, at 7 p.m. Jan. 30.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
REGIS JESUIT 37, HIGHLANDS RANCH 34
Score by quarters:
High. Ranch 13 5 4 12 — 34
Regis Jesuit 10 11 6 10 — 37
HIGHLANDS RANCH (34)
Tommi Olson 3 0-3 8, Jamie Bain 0 1-2 1, Courtney Humbarger 1 1-2 4, Autumn Watts 4 1-2 9, Kasey Neubert 4 4-5 12, Payton Muma 0 0-0 0. Totals 12 7-14 34.
REGIS JESUIT (37)
Fran Belibi 4 2-4 10, Jasmine Gaines 1 1-2 4, Avery Vansickle 2 3-4 7, Jada Moore 6 0-4 12, Noelle Cahill 1 0-0 2, Sidney Weigand 0 0-0 0, Olivia Ayers 1 0-0 2. Totals 15 6-14 37.
3-point field goals — Highlands Ranch (2): Courtney Humbarger, Tommi Olson. Regis Jesuit: Jasmine Gaines. Total fouls — Highlands Ranch 10, Regis Jesuit 13. Fouled out — None. Technical fouls — None.