BOULDER – Highlands Ranch and coach Caryn Jarocki will be going after the Falcons’ eighth Class 5A girls state basketball championship in 13 seasons Saturday afternoon.
Highlands Ranch (23-4) used two second-half scoring spurts to down Arapahoe, 64-54, in a semifinal game at the University of Colorado’s Coors Events Center Thursday night.
The Falcons, who have yet to lose in a championship game, will meet a familiar opponent in Continental League rival Regis Jesuit in a 3:30 p.m. game. The Raiders (25-2) edged Grandview 46-43 in Thursday’s first Class 5A semifinal game.
Regis won the 2009 state championship but lost to Highland Ranch in the 2008 and 2011 title games. The Raiders whipped the Falcons, 64-47, earlier this season in a league game.
“They are a good opponent,” Highlands Ranch guard Shelby Hickey said. “This is all or nothing. It’s for the state title so obviously it’s going to be a good game.”
Hickey hit a trio of key 3-point baskets and had 12 points in Thursday night’s win. Highlands Ranch held a 33-32 lead early in the third quarter when Arapahoe went 5:52 without scoring and the Falcons scored nine unanswered points to take an 11-point lead.
The Falcons were up by 12 points in the fourth quarter when Stacie Lukasiewicz scored six straight points for the Warriors, who used an 11-2 run to pull to within 51-49 with 2:41 remaining in the game.
Hickey, a 5-10 senior, then buried a 3-pointer to start a 9-0 Highlands Ranch spurt that sealed the victory.
“We’re in the Final Four,” said Hickey. “It’s not a league game. You’ve got to hit your shots. That’s what I did. You’ve just got to get in that rhythm. Once you hit a few shots. I’m a rhythm shooter and that’s what happens.”
Hickey, rebounding and the transition game, according to Jarocki, were the keys to the victory.
“That was big shot by Shelby,” Jarocki said. “She saved us with 3s in the first half too. We had a lot of turnovers. We had a lot of mistakes but the kids played really tough and hung in there. Rebounding really saved us. We have to get into transition, rebound and go.”
Arapahoe took a 16-15 lead after the first quarter as Lukasiewicz scored seven points to offset a quick start by the Falcons Madison Montgomery, who had eight points.
The Warriors led 22-17 with 5:55 left before halftime but the Falcons, fueled by two 3-pointers from Hickey, went on a 9-0 run and appeared ready to take a five-point lead into the dressing room but Arapahoe’s Kera Riley swished a 3-pointer from midcourt before the buzzer, which trimmed the Falcons lead to 29-27 at the intermission.
“They are strong shooters and they kept hitting 3-pointers,” Jarocki said.
Ciera Morgan led Highlands Ranch with 17 points and was 13-for-16 at the foul line. She was 6-for-6 in the final 3:24 to short circuit any Warrior comeback hopes.
Montgomery finished with 14 points and Kelsey Wainright added 11 points. Abriana Lujan and Emily Childress each had nine rebounds for Highlands Ranch, which held a 37-25 edge over the Warriors on the boards.
Highlands Ranch had 19 turnovers but outscored Arapahoe 22-2 from the free throw line.
Lukasiewicz led Arapahoe with 13 points and Riley had 10 for the Warriors, who finished the season with a 24-3 record.