BOULDER — Sixth seeds don’t make it to the Final Four of the state basketball tournament. It just doesn’t happen, certainly not with the lack of parity that has developed in Colorado over the past decade.
The Longmont High School girls basketball team defied the improbable in 2015 and upset its way to the Class 4A state semifinals. That magical run, however, ended at Coors Events Center on Thursday evening with a 59-31 loss to No. 2 Sand Creek.
“I just don’t think we came out with the intensity that we usually play with,” Longmont senior Grace Hamm said. “They put us out early and we couldn’t come back. I was really happy to have my senior season go this way. Usually we come out strong. It just so happened that in the game that mattered the most, we didn’t.”
Sand Creek (23-3), which was making its first Final Four appearance after losing in the Great 8 the past three years, jumped out to a 22-9 lead on Longmont (20-7) after the first quarter. Trailing 31-16 at halftime, Longmont did not score in the third quarter and trailed by 32 points to start the fourth quarter, essentially erasing all hope of a comeback.
With Longmont making its first Final Four appearance since finishing as the 4A runner-up in 2010 and 2011, junior forward Sydney Wetterstrom (18.5 ppg) led all scorers with 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. The Trojans just couldn’t overcome and slow start and a three-headed offensive attack from junior guard Oliana Squires (16 points), 6-foot-2 forward Liah Davis (10 points, six blocks) and guard Moriah Ceballes (12 points).
“Sand Creek was the aggressor,” Longmont head coach Mike Knaus said. “It felt like whoever was going to come out and set the tone early was going to control the game. They set the tone. We struggled scoring points against their post. She was a lot more active than what we saw on film. She blocked a lot of shots and we started to struggled because of it.”
Longmont upset No. 3 Evergreen, No. 2 Pueblo South and then undefeated No. 1 Cañon City to reach the Final Four.
In the Final Four, Knaus said one highlight was Hamm’s effort in the face of adversity. Hamm, who tore her ACL and played in just six games last season, is one of only five players to play in all 27 of the Trojans’ games this season.
In their third year under Knaus, the Trojans are 53-24 since a rough 5-19 season in 2011-12. Thursday’s loss was a tough end to an incredible run, but losing just two players to graduation, the Trojans expect to keep building on what they built next season.
“We were a family on the court and knowing that we were the underdogs on the court and the dark horse really made this season even better because we had nothing to lose,” Wetterstrom said. “That’s probably what drove us through the playoffs. We were really young this year and we have a lot of freshmen and sophomores who are ready to step up and knowing that we got here this year with such a young team is very promising for the future and for us being able to return in years to come.”
Sand Creek will face No. 2 Valor Christian (25-3), which won its semifinal 87-64 over No. 1 Pueblo West (22-5), in the 4A state title game at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
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Sand Creek 59, Longmont 31
At Coors Events Center
Sarah Nichols 1 1-2 3, Sam Wiley 1 0-0 2, Emma Carney 0 0-0 0, Grace Hamm 0 0-1 0, Sam Larson 0 0-0 0, Sydney Wetterstrom 8 3-6 19, Madi Gaibler 0 0-0 0, Alexis Cox 1 0-0 2, Kyra Duffy 0 0-0 0, Sydney Fixmer 1 0-0 2, Hali Walters 1 0-0 2, Kennedy Sheetz 0 1-2 1. Totals 13 5-11 31.
SAND CREEK (23-3)
S’ymone Roby 0 0-0 0, Brittany Zerwick 0 0-0 0, Jalen Davis 1 2-2 4, Madison Gay 0 0-0 0, Shyla Armstrong 0 0-0 0, Maia Curry 0 2-4 2, Taylore Thomas 1 1-2 3, Shayla Armstrong 3 0-0 6, Oliana Squires 7 0-0 16, Moriah Ceballes 4 4-4 12, Conner Proctor 2 0-0 6, Liah Davis 4 2-5 10. Totals 22 11-17 59.
Score by quarters:
Longmont 9 7 0 15 — 31
Sand Creek 22 9 17 11 — 59
3-point field goals — Longmont (0); Sand Creek (4): Squires 2, Proctor 2. Total fouls — Longmont 13, Sand Creek 14. Fouled out — Gaibler.