HIGHLANDS RANCH - Nearly everything was different about the Monarch girls basketball team this winter, but the Coyotes' season ended in a familiar way Friday night.
With a loss to ThunderRidge.
Granted, last season's loss to the Grizzlies came on the sizable stage of the state semifinals in what turned out to be the final game for longtime coach Gail Hook. This one had much less fanfare as a Class 5A second-round contest, but Monarch fell to the host Grizzlies again in an offensively-challenged 42-22 setback that officially put a cap to the Coyotes' season of transition.
"We were doing our job on defense, but we just weren't converting on offense," Monarch junior point guard Peyton Carter said. "You could tell that they knew most of our plays and we just were just having trouble reacting to that."
The side story to this one, naturally, was first-year Monarch head coach Bill Bradley's return to the ThunderRidge gym. He coached the Grizzlies from 2003-04 to 2012-13, a stretch in which the Grizzlies were a perennial final-four squad and captured two Abby Waner-led state crowns at the beginning of that run.
Bradley, who had not returned to ThunderRidge since the day he departed in 2013, watched his Coyotes oppose several players he helped develop during their middle-school years.
"All of them but two I worked with during the summer," Bradley said. "It's bittersweet because you feel like they're your kids and you want them to be successful, but then you also have a new set of kids."
As the No. 7 seed in the Alice Barron Region, it would have been a mighty upset to knock off the No. 2 Grizzlies, who narrowly lost to Broomfield in the championship game last season.
The Grizzlies (21-3) still have Wyoming-bound Taylor Rusk in the fold - she drilled three 3-pointers and scored 14 - in addition to Regis University-bound Jaz'Myne Snipes, who nearly outscored the Coyotes herself. Snipes finished with 21, and only a late 3-pointer by Monarch's Nicole Reading allowed the Coyotes to eclipse that total.
"Ultimately, to win a ballgame you have to make plays," Bradley said. "And I think ThunderRidge made most of the plays."
Carter scored Monarch's first five points before going down in a heap with an injured right ankle. The ankle has given her fits on and off since July, and she was able to return after getting taped up. Unfortunately for the Coyotes, Carter's five points stood up as a team-high on a night to burn the box score.
While the Coyotes will lose five seniors, Carter is optimistic for Bradley's first offseason with those who remain, a group that includes center Jasmine Jeffcoat.
"We have grown so much as a team since the beginning of the season," Carter said. "If you watched us at the beginning of the season compared to now, we're a totally different team. We've improved so much."
ThunderRidge 42, Monarch 22
Charlotte Crist 0 1-2 1, Peyton Carter 1 2-2 5, Macy Scott 1 2-2 4, Olivia Burgener 1 0-0 3, Jasmine Jeffcoat 2 0-0 4, Nicole Reading 1 0-0 3, Riley Langer 0 0-0 0, Lina Yesualov 0 0-0 0, Kellie Beswick 1 0-1 2. Totals 7 5-7 22..
Taylor Rusk 5 1-1 14, Madison Ward 0 0-0 0, Jaz'Myne Snipes 9 1-2 21, Alyssia Martinez 2 0-0 5, Mallory Elson 0 0-0 0, Rienne Ray 0 0-0 0, Keola Enos 0 2-2 2, Mia Needles 0 0-0 0, Alexa Wiens 0 0-0 0, Christina Martinez 0 0-0 0, Karli McCormick 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 4-5 42.
Score by quarters:Monarch 5 6 5 6 — 22
3-point field goals — Monarch (3): Carter, Burgener, Reading; ThunderRidge (6): Rusk 3, Snipes 2, A. Martinez.
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