BOULDER — It was difficult to immediately grasp the enormity of the situation.
The Monarch girls basketball team had just punched its ticket to the state championship game with a thrilling 69-57 comeback against Regis Jesuit on Wednesday, and players were so enraptured in the moment that they didn’t realize the auxiliary bonus.
That being that the Coyotes’ opponent in Friday night’s championship game (8 p.m., Coors Events Center) is Legacy.
“It’s been my dream to play Legacy in the state championship,” Monarch forward Alexus Johnson said. “It’s good to get it my senior year. It’s our last shot.”
It’s not that Monarch is 2-0 against the Kailey Edwards-led Lightning this season. It’s that the teams are chief rivals in the Front Range League, and with their close proximity, many players have grown up playing with or against each other in various leagues.
“I really wanted Kailey to win,” Monarch senior guard Rebecca Richmond said. “She’s been one of my close friends since I was younger. I’m thrilled that they won, but on the court Friday we’re not going to be friends.”
While the teams share a mutual disdain on the floor, they share a common link as ambassadors in the fight to prove that there is more to 5A hoops than the Continental League.
Each defeated a Continental League squad Wednesday — Legacy beat Highlands Ranch 64-61 — and Friday will mark only the second time since the turn of the century that the title game will be Continental-free.
Monarch (22-5) enters on a 12-game winning streak, a stretch that includes a 66-54 league-clinching triumph against Legacy on Feb. 17. The Coyotes also won 65-58 on Jan. 17, but they are not putting too much stock into the two regular-season wins.
“Definitely, we’re going into this game 0-0,” Monarch senior Ashton Davis said. “We’re pretending like we haven’t played them and haven’t beaten them, like it’s a fresh start.”
Legacy (23-4) exhibited its depth in the semifinals, getting past Highlands Ranch despite only nine points from the University of Denver-bound Edwards. Emily Glen, along with the Smith sisters, Courtney and Caitlyn, picked up the scoring slack, helping prove the Lightning is a bit more rounded than in the regular season.
“Those two games are in the past now, and it’s two good teams fighting for the championship,” Monarch coach Gail Hook said. “At this point, if you make it to the championship you’re doing something right.
“It’s really nice to see two Front Range League teams in there. It really is. It’s a credit to our league.”