LOUISVILLE — The record of the Monarch girls basketball team — all seven strong on varsity under second-year coach Bill Bradley — speaks for itself.
Wednesday's 50-42 loss to Class 5A No. 2 ranked Ralston Valley was the Coyotes' fourth setback of the season, and all four losses have come to ranked teams. Match that up with six wins as they head into Front Range League play, and you're looking at a team that feels the have the potential to make some noise with just two seniors, three sophomores and two freshmen dotting the roster.
"We're a pretty good team, but we're not the best team so we have to do all the little things better," Bradley said after their game played out in front of a crowd that braved the elements at the Monarch gym. "We're doing a great job and I have been impressed with them, but it's just cleaning up some stuff."
Much like their single-digit losses to Highlands Ranch, Arapahoe and Mesa Ridge, a few small things added up for Monarch against the Mustangs, who improved to 7-1 on the season and appear to be capable of a run to the championships at the Denver Coliseum in March.
While both defenses prevailed in a low-scoring first half, transition offense played a pivotal role in RVHS busting out to a big third quarter lead after Monarch had held the visitors to just 20 points through two frames.
Leading by five to open the third quarter, Ralston Valley got a couple turnovers and other runs to its offensive end of the floor that were cashed in — notably on kick-out 3-pointers from Michaela Shaklee and Ashley Van Sickle — for an 11-0 run that put Monarch in the pressure cooker at 31-15.
Ralston Valley extended the lead to 36-17 at one point before Monarch went on its best run, a 12-2 spurt spilling into the fourth frame keyed by Peyton Carter, who finished with 20 points.
Jasmine Jeffcoat also had 12 points for Monarch, but it was the Mustangs' Shaklee that hit some daggers down the stretch of the game, finishing with 14 second-half points and 21 overall.
"We talked about two possessions where we're shooting free throws and we miss the back end and as a result of not doing good in transition they hit 3's on both of them," Bradley said. "That's all in the second half, and that's eight points difference in an eight-point game. We can do a lot better job of just some of those things that can make a huge difference."
The second of Bradley's three "seasons" (preseason, league, state tournament) begins Friday, and although MoHi is excited about FRL play the first two games put them against Fossil Ridge and Horizon. The SaberCats and Hawks are considered two of the top guns in the conference.
"We haven't had many feel-good games, and we've got these next two that are also big for us," Bradley said. "We're going to have to forget this one and get right on to the next one."
Ralston Valley 50, Monarch 42
At Monarch HS
RALSTON VALLEY (7-1)
A. Van Sickle 2 2-2 7, S. Van Sickle 1 0-0 3, Shaklee 7 2-3 21, Gillach 2 5-6 10, Nichols 1 0-0 2, 1 5-6 7. Totals 14 14-17 50.
Morgan 0 0-0 0, Carter 5 6-8 20, Reading 2 0-0 6, Deitsch 0 0-0 0, Herrmann 2 0-0 4, Jeffcoat 6 0-2 12. Totals 15 6-10 42.
Score by quarters:Ralston Valley 11 9 18 12 — 50
Monarch 11 4 9 18 — 42
3-point field goals — Ralston Valley (8): Shaklee 5, A. Van Sickle 1, S. Van Sickle 1, Gillach 1; Monarch (6): Carter 4, Reading 2. Fouled out — Jeffcoat.