With wins this season already against ThunderRidge and Broomfield, the Fairview girls basketball team has enjoyed some early success against some programs that have traditionally given them fits.
It's a great sign for the Knights, who are looking to build on a Class 5A Sweet 16 appearance last year.
But on Saturday in the championship game of the Fairview Festival, No. 2 ranked Ralston Valley looked every bit the part of a state contender while at the same time revealing a few things FHS will surely need to shore up if they want to make a serious run.
The running and gunning Mustangs got out in transition, got inside and finished buckets — and, oh yeah, hit a dozen 3-pointers on their way to a 77-50 win to claim the prestigious tournament title.
"(Ralston Valley has) a lot of weapons and all five starters can put up big numbers, and when they shoot the ball extremely well ... you want to have a little more of a hand in contesting shots but they got them off quick," said Fairview head coach Rod Beauchamp, whose team is still 4-1 after the setback. "I was hoping for a more competitive game, but it's a solid team that we'll learn from.
"I think we've talked after all our games about giving up too many points, even when we're on the winning side. We need to get better defensively."
Ralston Valley improved to 3-1 on the year, its lone loss a 10-point defeat to top-ranked Grandview in the opening week. In three Fairview Festival games, they put up 90, 56 and 77 points.
Saturday, it was a blend of outside shooting and Ashley Van Sickle driving fearlessly to the rim that had the Knights on their heels. They hit nine first half 3-pointers, five coming from Samantha Van Sickle, to quickly build a 44-27 lead at the break.
Sarah Bevington then got going inside in the second half, and the Mustangs finished with four players with at least 14 points.
Denali Pinto led the Knights with 15 points, and Lena Heddad came in and added six points off the bench in the second half. Fairview's struggles were punctuated with an off night of shooting and only started to get more consistent penetration after RVHS had already gained the big advantage.
"They shot lights out and we didn't have the best shooting night ourselves, but we'll definitely improve from it," Pinto said. "We need to get back in transition defense better, and on offense we need to look up the floor because that's what we want to do. We were kind of stagnant tonight."
In the third place game, Broomfield tangled with Cherry Creek and also fell victim to some hot perimeter shooting as the Bruins nailed six first-quarter treys and nine in the first half on their way to a 67-43 win.
The Eagles have been without the services of Taylor Gilmore since the start of the season with an injury — representing the lone returning starter from last year for BHS in the first place. But Abby Croell scored 19 points and Jenna Casasanta added 10 for BHS, who is still looking for traction at 2-4.
"It's a growth mindset for us and we talk about it a lot because we are young and inexperienced as a whole," said head coach Derek Seifried. "The girls are coachable, and the biggest thing for us is daily refinement."
Fairview Festival championship game
Ralston Valley 77, Fairview 50
At Fairview HS
RALSTON VALLEY (3-1)
Deherrera 0 0-0 0, A. Van Sickle 8 0-0 17, S. Van Sickle 6 0-0 17, Shaklee 4 2-2 14, Gillach 2 0-0 5, Nichols 1 0-0 2, Capley 1 2-2 5, Bevington 6 5-6 17. Totals 28 9-10 77.
Rios 2 0-0 4, Haddad 2 2-2 6, Pinto 4 5-6 15, Munson 1 1-2 3, O'Neill 2 3-4 8, Protsko 0 0-0 0, Panem 1 10-10 13, Webster 0 1-2 1. Totals 12 22-26 50.
Score by quarters:Ralston Valley 18 26 20 13 — 77
Fairview 10 17 17 16 — 50
3-point field goals — Ralston Valley (12): S. Van Sickle 5, Shaklee 4, A. Van Sickle, Gillach, Capley; Fairview (4): Pinto 2, O'Neill, Panem. Technical fouls — Fairview coach.