It is hard to run an effective offense without a true point guard.
Top-seeded Highlands Ranch found that out March 3 when the Falcons were upset by No. 9 seed Lakewood, 61-49, in the March 3 quarterfinals of the Class 5A state tournament at the Denver Coliseum.
It was the first in-state loss for the Falcons, who finished the season with a 23-3 record. Lakewood (21-5) advanced to an 8:30 p.m. Final Four semifinal game on March 9 against Cherry Creek (19-7) at the Coliseum.
Highlands Ranch led 21-20 with 1:36 left in the first half when junior point guard Tommi Olson was whistled for her third foul and went to the bench.
Lakewood then capitalized on three Ranch turnovers and scored the last eight points of the half to take a seven-point lead.
The Falcons could never regain the lead.
Highlands Ranch pulled to within one point twice and was down 52-47 with 1:43 still to play in the game when Olson fouled out. Lakewood then went on a 9-2 run to end the contest and eliminate the Falcons.
“Without out our floor leader, we didn't follow our game plan,” Highlands Ranch coach Caryn Jarocki said. “And we can't get in foul trouble. Our three best kids got in foul trouble. That's the difference in the game right there.”
In addition to Olson, sophomore Autumn Watts and sophomore Kasey Neubert were each hampered with foul trouble.
“We tried,” Jarocki said. “We'd get close and then shoot ourselves in the foot. Twenty-two turnovers do not win games in these type of situations. And the not boxing out a free throw, that was big. We get within two and then we lost our minds again on defense.
“It was a great season, I'm proud of the kids. They did a really good job.”
Watts and Neubert paced the Falcons with 12 points each and Olson, the team's scoring leader for the season, finished with nine points. Watts had eight rebounds.
The team's 22 turnovers in the game, and 10 in the second half, spoiled any comeback hopes for the Falcons.
Highlands Ranch had only one senior on the Great 8 roster and the Falcons return 11 underclass players.
Lakewood was credited with 28 points off turnovers and the Tigers outscored the Falcons 9-0 off the bench.