HIGHLANDS RANCH — Five years after having only six girls on the varsity program, and only three since it was recognized by the state as a varsity program, Prospect Ridge Academy is in the hunt for its first postseason appearance in basketball.
The Miners came into Monday's game against SkyView Academy ranked 26th in the Class 3A RPI standings before falling to the Hawks 51-45. With a spot in the 32-team field in the balance, all that's left is two games in the regular season before the district tournament.
To get into the 3A dance, two teams will automatically qualify for the postseason from each of the classification's seven districts while the remaining 18 will be determined by RPI.
As far as RPI standings go, "We need to win those last two (regular-season games), bottom line," Prospect Ridge Academy coach Sara O'Flannigan said.
A win over the 11th-ranked team in RPI would have helped.
Brittany Gioso scored nine of the Miners' first 13 points and finished with a game-high 19. Yet a promising start, one that included nine quick points from Gioso and three blocks from 6-foot-2 forward Sierra Leopold, was eclipsed by an offensive surge from the Highlands Ranch charter school.
And a fiery finish — well, it came up just short, too.
Prospect Ridge Academy (10-7, 6-3 3A Metro League) cut a 12-point, fourth-quarter deficit down to four in the final 78 seconds. Leopold hit a 3 from the corner to make it 47-43 with 1:18 remaining and Gioso swished a runner to make it 49-45 with 41 seconds left.
The Miners missed from that point on, however, and SkyView's Hannah Banko sealed the game with a pair of free throws in the waning seconds.
"We've come a long way in three years," Gioso, a senior, said. "We started out as sophomores on varsity and we really learned from that and we've matured from that. And now we're all strong, we're all cohesive as a team — we just need to take that cohesiveness and turn it into wins."
The Miners cooled down after going up 13-4 in the opening minutes as SkyView Academy (13-2, 6-1) rallied to tie the game 13-all early in the second quarter. The Hawks then pulled ahead 30-21 on an 11-1 run to begin the third and never trailed again.
Prospect Ridge closes the regular season with home games against Peak to Peak on Friday and Stargate School on Feb. 12. District tournaments in 3A start after Feb. 16.
Brent W. New: email@example.com and @brentwnew
SkyView 51, Prospect Ridge 45
At SkyView Academy
PROSPECT RIDGE (10-7, 6-3)
Korbe 2 2-2 6, Weber 3 0-0 8, Abram 0 1-2 1, Rocks 0 0-0 0, Gioso 7 5-9 19, Leopold 2 0-0 5, O'Flannigan 2 2-4 6, Stelpstra 0 0-0 0, Hernandez 0 0-0 0. Team 16 10-17 45.
SKYVIEW (13-2, 6-1)
Wyatt 2 1-3 7, Rugg 2 0-0 4, Miller-Forrest 3 1-1 9, Bender 0 0-0 0, Banko 4 4-4 12, Neujahr 0 0-0 0, Dempsey 6 3-4 15, Brown 2 0-0 4, Uhrig 0 0-0 0. Team 19 9-12 51.
Score by quarters:Prospect Ridge 13 7 12 13 — 45
3-point field goals — Prospect Ridge (3): Weber 2, Leopold; SkyView (4): Wyatt 2, Miller-Forrest 2. Total fouls — Prospect Ridge 13, SkyView 11. Fouled out — No players fouled out. Technical fouls — No technical fouls.