LONGMONT — The Longmont girls basketball team went all the way to the Final 4 last season despite entering the Class 4A state tournament as a No. 6 seed.
Last year's run included several of the most shocking tournament upsets in recent memory. As they upset the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 seeds a year ago, the Trojans came to understand that no playoff team is safe from a devil-may-care underdog. The No. 8-seed Widefield Gladiators hammered that point home on Friday night.
This time on the wrong end of one of the biggest postseason upsets in Colorado prep basketball history, the top-ranked Trojans fell 45-38 at home to the visiting Gladiators.
"We just didn't play a good game," Longmont head coach Mike Knaus said. "There isn't much to say other than I've been really happy with the girls all season. We've always brought an effort and we did that tonight. We just didn't click as well as we usually do."
Hosting a first-round game in the Tanya Haave Region, the Northern League-champion Trojans (22-2) came into the playoffs riding a 21-game win streak that had lasted over two months. They jumped out to a 9-0 lead before the Gladiators (14-10) finally scored on a free throw midway through the first quarter.
The Trojans led 11-9 after one quarter and the game was tied four times in the second, including a 23-23 stalemate at halftime. Though the Trojans led by as many as five points in the third quarter, the Gladiators kept the game close and tied it 36-36 with 4:40 left in the fourth quarter. Despite getting good looks at the basket and several secondary attempts, the Trojans scored just two points the rest of the way as the Gladiators pulled away and made the free throws they needed to win.
"In our time outs, we talked about running things to get good looks, things that have worked all season," Knaus said. "I feel like we did a pretty good job of getting open and getting close. The ball just wouldn't go in the basket."
The Trojans shot 28 percent from the field.
Senior guard Madi Gaibler (14.1 ppg) led the Trojans with 20 points. Sixth in 4A in scoring average, Trojans senior forward Sydney Wetterstrom (18.9 ppg) scored six points but also held Gladiators senior forward and leading scorer Logan Prater (15.5 ppg) to eight points in the post.
Freshman Aaliyah Ricketts led the Gladiators with 20 points.
"You know, this just doesn't happen," Gladiators head coach Jim Mason said. "We looked at their stats and their schedule and we thought we had some similarities. We were able to weather the storm early and then our freshman Ricketts went off. They were number one all year for a reason and you don't get to knock off number one very often. It took our best game to do it."
Back at Longmont High for the Sweet 16 on Saturday, the Gladiators will play No. 4 D'Evelyn (15-9).
Widefield 45, Longmont 38
At Longmont H.S.
Diana Scott 0 0-2 0, Chardonnae Hall 0 0-0 0, Charisse Fairley 1 3-4 5, Aaliyah Ricketts 7 3-6 20, Alexa Apodaca 1 2-4 4, Jaida Aquino 1 3-8 5, Shynesti Johnson 1 1-3 3, Logan Prater 2 4-6 8. Totals 12 16-33 45.
Sarah Nichols 0 4-4 4, Sam Wiley 0 0-0 0, Emma Carney 1 0-2 2, Sydney Fixmer 0 0-2 0, Sam Larson 0 0-0 0, Sydney Wetterstrom 2 2-4 6, Madi Gaibler 8 4-6 20, Hali Walters 1 0-0 2, Kennedy Sheetz 2 0-0 4. Totals 14 10-18 38.
Score by quarters:Widefield 9 14 7 15 — 45
Longmont 11 12 9 6 — 38
3-point field goals — Widefield (1): Ricketts; Longmont (0): None. Total fouls — Widefield 16, Longmont 23. Fouled out — Fairley, Nichols.