FORT COLLINS — At the beginning of the season, Jasmine Jeffcoat had her reservations about the Monarch varsity girls basketball team that head coach Bill Bradley was going to run with.
Needless to say, she's come to appreciate the structure.
The magnificent seven of MoHi — with just two seniors, three sophomores and two freshmen — are surging to the playoffs.
The team's seventh win in a row came Thursday night at Fort Collins, a resounding 58-30 victory on the Lambkins floor that signified a sweep of the Fort Collins teams (Fossil Ridge, Rocky Mountain, Poudre, Fort Collins) in Front Range League play.
And with all of the recent wins coming by double-digits, the Coyotes (16-6 overall, 10-2 FRL) certainly appear to be peaking at the right time as well.
"It's really difficult to go into the season like, 'well, we've got seven girls' but we've for sure gotten so close in school and everywhere. That's just helped us so much in the game, knowing each other so well," Jeffcoat said after notching 13 points and 15 rebounds in the win over FCHS.
The regular season finale for Monarch — No. 12 in the Class 5A ratings percentage index (RPI) prior to Thursday — was just another example of the chemistry that has been built over the course of 22 games. They passed up difficult shots to find teammates with better looks, they rebounded on both sides of the floor and they responded in a big way after Fort Collins made a small run in the third quarter.
The Lambkins (14-9, 6-6) came out in the third quarter and cut a 31-14 halftime deficit to 35-27 with a run of 3-point makes, but sophomore post Emerson Herrmann found a nice groove inside to spark a 13-0 run for Monarch that spilled into the fourth quarter.
Herrmann showed good hands on some difficult passes all night, finishing with 17 points and five rebounds. She has scored at least 12 points in all seven wins. For Herrmann, however, the defensive tenacity from the team has been what has stood out of late.
"One of our mottos, I would say, is no easy layups (defensively)," Herrmann said. "We don't want anyone getting those two-foot shots, and we want to make them get out and shoot lower-percentage stuff."
Overall, Monarch shot 59.5 percent from the floor (22-for-37) while holding Fort Collins to 26.8 percent (11-for-41). The Lambkins were without leading scorer Delsie Johnson for much of the middle quarters with four personal fouls, and Fort Collins often settled for perimeter looks (made five of 27 3-point attempts).
Senior Peyton Carter also finished in double-figures for Monarch with 14 points.
"We were just in the locker room and coach Bradley was just saying how proud he was of us, and that's the best thing that you can hear from a coach," Jeffcoat said. "We were all smiles."
Monarch 58, Fort Collins 30
At Fort Collins HS
MONARCH (16-6, 10-2)
Morgan 0 0-0 0, Carter 3 7-8 14, Reading 3 0-0 8, Deitsch 3 0-0 6, That 0 0-0 0, Herrmann 8 1-1 17, Jeffcoat 5 3-4 13. Totals 22 11-13 58.
FORT COLLINS (14-9, 6-6)
Fischer 0 0-0 0, Fitz 2 0-0 5, 3 1-2 10, Johnson 1 1-1 3, Buckner 0 0-0 0, Bulmer 0 0-0 0, Swanson 1 0-0 2, Layne 0 1-2 1, Humpal 0 0-0 0, Ryan 0 0-0 0, Williams 2 0-0 5, Maitland 2 0-0 4. Totals 11 3-5 30.
Score by quarters:Monarch 15 16 13 14 — 58 Fort Collins 7 7 13 3 — 30
3-point field goals — Monarch (3): Reading 2, Carter; Fort Collins (5): Sluss 3, Fitz, Williams.