The word "resolve" has not had to be used that often in Fairview head girls basketball coach Rod Beauchamp's pre-game talks with the Knights, especially in the past two years coming off a Class 5A Sweet 16 appearance and one of the top records in the classification this season — up until Monday.
But after the Colorado High School Activities Association was forced to take six January wins away from the team for using an ineligible player — who was simply not taking enough Carnegie credits during the second semester of school to remain in good standing — resolve was one thing Beauchamp drove home prior to Tuesday's game against Rocky Mountain.
For junior Denali Pinto, that meant everything as the Knights came out on the court and dismantled a good Lobos team 87-51 at the Fairview gym. The Knights seized the opportunity to get back on track with their season by dropping Rocky to 15-4 on the season, taking control of the game midway through the second quarter and proving unwilling to back off.
"We just did really good responding to this adversity we've faced the past week, and this was just a great game where we all stepped up and played together and strong," Pinto said after pouring in 24 points, one of three FHS players to top 20 in the contest. "Before the game, coach said we needed to play with resolve and I definitely think we showed that tonight."
"In our minds, we're 17-4. We know where we are at and I think we are a confident team but at the same time we know we need to keep on getting better," Beauchamp said, his team officially moving to 11-10 on the season. "If we end up being a 28 seed (in the playoffs), we are going to have to play someone (elite) at some point no matter what."
The Knights are most affected in the rating percentage index (RPI) that determines the playoff fields — likely they will now be a first-round road team instead of having a chance to host a game. On Tuesday morning the Knights were No. 28 in the 5A RPI.
But Tuesday's game certainly showed that no one should sleep on the Knights. Even short-benched with injuries to starter Izzy Munson and reserve Emma Prostko, Fairview was virtually unstoppable in the second half.
Ashley Panem helped spark a 13-0 run out of the locker room in the third quarter to finish with 30 points, Grace O'Neill was knocking home shots from all over the court to finish with 24 and Pinto played the role of clean-up specialist a couple of times in addition to hitting plenty of open jumpers herself.
All told, the three of them combined for 33 made field goals. Kate Lampert, getting a chance to start, finished with nine points as well including two traditional three-point plays that got the team fired up.
They out-ran Rocky down the court but also were extremely effective in setting up plays, resulting in their highest scoring game in the current team's regime.
"We wanted to play together, and Ashley came out strong and hit shots just to get us going," Pinto said. "We did a great job of moving around and being selfless, which is awesome."
"I think all of our big scorers shot over 70 percent ... but (Lampert) was big and (Sydney Rios) was getting the rebounds and doing all the hustle things," Beauchamp said. "I was happy with how we got out and ran."
Fairview 87, Rocky Mountain 51
At Fairview HS
ROCKY MOUNTAIN (15-4, 6-3)
Jones 6 0-2 13, Towne 1 4-4 6, Warner 3 3-4 9, Long-Shore 2 0-0 5, McDonald 1 2-6 4, Martinez 0 0-0 0, Eccher 1 0-0 2, Bennett 2 2-4 8, Sinclair 2 0-0 4. Totals 18 11-20 51.
FAIRVIEW (11-10, 2-8)
Rios 0 0-0 0, Pinto 10 4-5 24, O'Neill 11 1-2 24, Panem 12 4-4 30, Lampert 3 3-4 9, Webster 0 0-0 0, Richmond 0 0-0 0, Todacheene 0 0-0 0. Totals 36 12-15 87.
Score by quarters:Rocky Mountain 10 16 12 13 — 51
Fairview 15 24 26 22 — 87
3-point field goals — Rocky Mountain (4): Bennett 2, Long-Shore, Jones; Fairview (3): Panem 2, O'Neill.