MEAD — Getting left out of the Class 4A state tournament motivated the Mead boys basketball team to make sure it ended the 2015-16 season with a playoff-worthy resume.
The Mavericks found out they had succeeded in doing so when they were included in the 4A state championship bracket that was released by the Colorado High School Activities Association on Sunday.
Now that they're in, the Mavericks will turn their attention to remaining alive in the postseason they've waited two years to be a part of.
"I think they're mostly just excited," Mavericks head coach Darren Reese said. "They're looking forward to the opportunity. We're excited to be where we're at. We had a little chip on our shoulder this year that helped keep our focus. The way things went down at the end of last year and being a year older, we didn't ever really take a night off."
Seeded third in the Richard Tate Region, the Mavericks (18-5) will face sixth-seeded Green Mountain (11-12) in the first round on Friday. Having played the Jeffco League team once during the regular season, the Mavericks defeated the Rams 69-47 at their place in Lakewood on Jan. 16. Junior guard Michael Ward scored 27 points for the Mavericks in that game.
Also in that game, however, the Rams were without leading scorer Austin Fritts, who was the 11th-highest scorer in 4A this season with an 18.5-point average.
"We saw them already but they were missing a few guys, including their best player," Reese said. "They should be a different team this time around."
Ward (16.7 pgg) is the top scorer for the Mavericks, who averaged 67.5 points per game during the regular season. Senior guard Walker Korell averaged 15.9 and senior point guard James Maher averaged 10.5.
The Mavericks finished last season with a 15-8 record and expected to be selected for the 32-team postseason bracket. This season, the Mavericks' five losses all came against teams that are now seeded sixth or higher in the state tournament - No. 1 Longmont, No. 2 Pueblo South, No. 6 Thomas Jefferson, No. 4 Holy Family and No. 3 Windsor.
Only two of those losses were by double-digit points and the Mavericks also beat Tri-Valley League rivals Holy Family and Windsor in the final 10 days of the regular season.
"When we're playing well, we feel like we can compete with anyone," Reese said. "I think we showed that in some of our early-season games and we've gotten a lot better since December. So we're excited to start playing."
If they win on Friday, the Mavericks will face the winner of a first-round game between No. 2 Sierra and No. 7 Wheat Ridge. Should the reach the Great 8, they will likely come up against the reigning 4A runner-up Longmont Trojans, who defeated the Mavericks 52-46 on Dec. 4.