The upcoming trip to Florida for the Fairview girls basketball team next week is first and foremost being viewed as a business trip, but the schedule the Knights have played early on certainly will make for a welcome getaway, too.
By the time Saturday's home game against Mountain Vista concludes, the Class 5A No. 5-ranked Knights will have played three top-10 teams, and on Wednesday it was No. 4 Regis Jesuit who stormed into FHS gym and gave the Knights fits in a 54-41 victory for the Raiders.
As complete a team as you're going to find in Colorado, Regis flexed its muscles in the third quarter of what was a tight game, going on a decisive 10-0 run using the full length of the floor, and Fairview couldn't cut into that advantage the rest of the way as it dropped its second straight.
As it was in a loss to Ralston Valley to end the Fairview Festival, the energy for the hosts was good early against Regis and Fairview was within 26-25 with 5:30 to go in the third quarter. That's when the rebound-and-outlet game for Regis (5-2) got going, and the Fran Belibi-led Raiders shot 14-for-23 in the second half with transition baskets keying the high-percentage effort.
"They're a final-four team (from last year), but I feel like we came out with the same aggressiveness as we did with Ralston Valley and really met their level to start," said Fairview sophomore Izzy Munson, a two-year starter who finished with seven points. "At the end of the day, there's just a little more athleticism over there but I think we handled it pretty well overall.
"For us, the main thing is finding someone to box out. That's something you can always work on. They were a bigger team, and they pushed it up the floor off those boards. That kind of killed us."
Six-foot-four post Noelle Cahill and Belibi are matchup problems for most teams, and they were certainly a factor throughout the game as the pair combined for 26 of the team's 36 rebounds and added five total blocked shots. Both have the presence to move bodies and find offensive rebounds, and that was how Regis scored most of its points in the first half.
Regis led just 22-21 at the break, though, because Ashley Panem and Denali Pinto were able to shake free a couple of times and hit some tough shots. The Knights settled down in the second quarter with just two turnovers and that helped in a back-and-forth period of play.
Munson and Kate Lampert each hit baskets early in the third quarter to keep it a one-point game, but Regis followed Lampert's basket with an inside make from Belibi (who finished with 15 points), a jumper in transition from Jasmine Gaines and then a layup from Jada Moore off a Panem missed 3-pointer — again in quick transition.
Moore, the team's leading scorer coming in, was held scoreless through the first half but went on to find two more dribble-drives off a high screen in the third quarter, putting RJHS ahead 36-25 by the 2:05 mark of the third.
Panem had an opportunity to cut the lead back to single digits in the fourth quarter with a pair of free throws, but she missed one to keep the Regis lead at 40-30 and that edge stayed in double-digits the rest of the way.
Panem led all scorers with 16 points, and Denali Pinto added 12 for Fairview — who shot 32 percent overall (17-for-53).
Cahill had 12 points including 6-for-6 at the free-throw line, and Moore finished with eight points for Regis. The Raiders had just nine turnovers and allowed FHS just 21 rebounds.
"Any team that we go against with that size is going to be a tough matchup for us," Fairview coach Rod Beauchamp said. "I thought they locked down defensively, just trying to deny hard on Ashley and Denali. We need to be patient and work through our offense, and at times tonight we tried to do some things we just don't normally do."
"I think we took a lot of great shots, but to beat a great team you all have to work together to get each other open," Munson said. "We're going to be ready for Mountain Vista, and the next two days of practice are going to be really intense."
Regis Jesuit 54, Fairview 41
At Fairview HS
REGIS JESUIT (5-2)
Belibi 7 1-6 15, Ayers 3 1-2 7, S. Weigand 2 0-0 4, Gaines 2 0-0 4, Vansickle 2 0-0 4, G. Weigand 0 0-0 0, Moore 4 0-0 8, Jones 0 0-0 0, Cahill 3 6-6 12. Totals 23 8-14 54.
Richmond 0 0-0 0, Pinto 6 0-1 12, Munson 3 0-0 7, Valdez 0 0-0 0, Konstantopolous 1 2-2 4, Panem 6 2-4 16, Lampert 1 0-0 2, Anderson 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 4-7 41.
Score by quarters:Regis Jesuit 12 10 18 14—54
Fairview 11 10 6 14—41
3-point field goals — Regis Jesuit: None; Fairview (3): Panem 2, Munson.