Fairview's Ashley Panem is one of the most unassuming people you could ever meet. Yet you can definitely tell when she is having fun on the basketball court.
When the Knights were playing at their best this year — which was quite often, honestly — Panem's glowing smile waited until the opposition would perhaps call a time out in disgust, or even until the final horn sounded after an FHS win.
In the heat of play, Panem was stone-cold, ice-water-in-the-veins good. Her stock has continued to rise from her freshman season, when she started and averaged 8.7 points a game, and in 2017 as a junior took a major step toward being one of Colorado's finest all-around players and a Division I college prospect.
Those who saw her down the stretch of Fairview's 2016-17 season caught a glimpse of her effectiveness as FHS made the Class 5A Sweet 16, and for her genuine consistency in all facets of the game Panem has been named the BoCoPreps.com girls basketball player of the year.
From a scoring standpoint, Panem was part of a trio of girls for Fairview that wreaked havoc on many a team in the Front Range League and elsewhere. But the Knights' smaller lineup was also filled with several role players that simply stuck to playing within their element.
"My goal this year was to be more of a leader whether it was by play-making or, because I was older, being a coach to others," Panem said this week as she prepared for The Show Top 20 girls basketball game that will take place this Saturday at the Auraria Event Center. "We didn't have a lot of girls, but everyone had their roles and contributed equally. Without everyone we would not have been as successful as we were."
By count of the scoreboard, Fairview won 21 games. Unfortunately, six of those wins were vacated by forfeit because of the team unknowingly using an ineligible player during the month of January.
For Panem, a 5-foot-8 point guard, the team's response to the adversity of falling behind in the FRL and eventually ending up as a No. 23 seed in the playoffs was one of her personal season highlights. The Knights went 6-2 over the final eight games including playoffs — falling to Doherty in the Sweet 16 after erasing rival Monarch in the second round at MHS.
Panem's season numbers included a 17.9 point scoring average — failing to hit double-figures just once (a blowout win against Adams City) — and she pitched in 4.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.4 steals a contest.
Her shooting percentages were solid all over the court — 40 percent from 3-point land, 50 percent inside the arc and 80 percent at the free-throw line. Finally, in the final nine games of the season she averaged 21.2 points on a field-goal percentage that topped 50 percent eight times.
"Another thing I wanted to work on was, if the ball was in my hands at a critical moment in the game, not to be rattled and just believe that you can do anything," Panem said, noting the Feb. 7 win against Rocky Mountain was her favorite game of the year.
"As a team, we really believed that everything happens for a reason and we really got even closer as a team after we had to forfeit those games. We never shunned from our abilities."
Panem will again be playing for BC Denver this spring and summer and in the meanwhile weighing the college options that continue to pour in. As for her senior season with the Knights, she is just 24 points away from a major career benchmark — 1,000 points.