LONGMONT — Caleb Ayers' father imparted a simple piece of knowledge onto his son at a young age — if you're going to play sports and compete, and you don't think you can win, then why are you even there?
The message sunk in.
You're welcome, Mead High.
Now a senior in high school, Ayers takes that message with him into every game the Mead boys basketball team plays and his confidence lacks for nothing. If showing up is the standard, the Mavericks have launched way past it.
On Wednesday night, the Mead boys won 71-48 against Coronado. The win pushed the Mavericks through to the Class 4A Great 8 for the third time in the school's history.
It wasn't until the Mavs flooded the locker room after the win that the gravity of what they had accomplished hit Ayers.
And it hit him hard.
"Crazy," Ayers said. "Oh my gosh. Walking into the locker room with the boys, I can't explain that feeling. That's not explainable.
"I remember my sophomore year when we went to Valor for the (Great) 8 game against them. That was probably the craziest thing I've ever been a part of. We've got Holy Family next, and me and the guys hope it's the same environment because we've all dreamed about playing in that type of environment. Winning tonight, that feeling, I'll remember that for the rest of my life and I know everybody else in that room will, too.
"We're ready. We're coming."
The No. 5 seed Mavericks (22-3) will play No. 4 Holy Family, a Tri-Valley League rival they defeated twice during the regular season, in the Great 8 (at HFHS, 1 p.m.).
Against the Cougars (9-17) on Wednesday, the Mavericks pulled ahead early with senior point guard Will Maher hitting three of the team's seven 3-pointers in the first half, and Jacob Bartholomew scoring eight points in the first two quarters. Building on a 35-21 halftime lead, Ayers caught fire and hit four 3-pointers in the third quarter to push the Mavericks' lead to 14 points to start the fourth.
The Mavericks reached the Sweet 16 in three of four years prior to their 2017-18 season ending in the second round. The Cougars, who haven't won more than five games in any of the past four seasons, made an impression on the Mavericks before leaving town.
"In the second half, we played more freely like we usually do," Mavericks head coach Darin Reese said. "Defensively, we did a pretty good job. We started a little bit slow tonight, but I'm proud of our guys.
"Their record, or their seed, is definitely not indicative of who they really are," Reese said. "They play in a tough 5A conference and you saw tonight how they battle. They're tough kids. They made it difficult tonight."
Mead 71, Coronado 48
At Mead H.S.
Mays 4 1-3 10, Scherr 7 0-1 16, Austin 0 1-2 1, Pasquarello 0 0-0 0, McKee 6 1-2 13, White 2 3-4 8, Rempel 0 0-0 0, Walters 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 6-12 48.
Sock 0 0-0 0, N. Jacobs 2 0-0 4, Maher 5 2-5 17, Wilhelm 3 2-2 8, Ward 1 3-4 5, Ayers 5 0-0 14, Pelzel 0 0-0 0, Knudsen 0 0-0 0, Wilke 4 1-2 9, Bartholomew 6 2-3 14, McGill 0 0-0 0, KJ Jacobs 0 0-0 0. Totals 26 12-16 71.
Score by quarters:Coronado 11 10 20 7 — 48
3-point field goals — Coronado (4): Scherr 2, Mays, White; Mead (7): Ayers 4, Maher 3. Total fouls — Coronado 18, Mead 16. Fouled out — McKee. Technical fouls — N. Jacobs.