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Formidable Falcons keep soaring

Highlands Ranch defeats ThunderRidge in second round of playoffs

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The Highlands Ranch girls basketball team rolled to an 83-38 victory over Continental League rival ThunderRidge in a second-round Class 5A playoff game Feb. 24 in the Falcons' gym.

That's a 33-point improvement over a league game on Feb. 3, when the Falcons beat the Grizzlies 49-37.

“I believe my kids have worked so hard that it's so visible,” Highlands Ranch coach Caryn Jarocki said. “Our game with ThunderRidge last time was a 12-point game. We had a week to game-plan, so that sort of helped too.”

The game matched teams that played for the 2016 state championship, which ThunderRidge won, 47-32, at the Coors Events Center.

Highlands Ranch, the top-seeded team in the 5A playoff bracket, improved to 22-2 on the season with the win and made its 20th trip to the Sweet 16 when it faced league rival Castle View on Feb. 28.

The Falcons, winners of seven state championships over the previous 17 seasons, forced seven turnovers in the first quarter against ThunderRidge, jumped to a 23-4 lead, and never looked back,

“We were trying to amp up on the defensive end too because they're a hard team to guard with all the threes they usually shoot,” said Jarocki, who is the winningest girls basketball coach in Colorado with a 595-161 record over 32 seasons. “Our plan was to try to shut down their threes.”

Four Falcons scored in double figures against the Grizzlies. Junior guard Tommi Olson, sophomore Autumn Watts and sophomore Kasey Neubert each had 19 points, and junior Courtney Humbarger contributed 11 points.

ThunderRidge ended its season with a 10-15 record.

Senior Keola Enos and junior Christina Martinez each had eight points to lead ThunderRidge, while junior Mia Needles had seven for the Grizzlies, which were limited to two 3-point baskets.

“I thought we would get better at times this season and then we would take a step backward,” ThunderRidge coach Matt Asik said. “We had some injuries and sicknesses. We could put it together some games for three quarters. We played a lot better the first time we came here (to Highlands Ranch) defensively. That's what we've preached because I knew we weren't going to score that much this year.”

Needles was the Grizzlies' leading scorer this season with a 10.3 point per game average, followed by Martinez at 8.9 and Enos at 6.3.

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