HIGHLANDS RANCH — The hope was that a positive ending to an otherwise disappointing 2018-19 season would help carry the Fairview girls basketball team to a resurgent season this winter.
It’s safe to say that turned out to be the case.
On Tuesday night, the No. 22-seed Knights (16-10) fell 48-25 on the road to No. 6 Highlands Ranch (20-5), one of the few true contenders for the Class 5A crown. But the fact that the loss occurred in the Sweet 16, the same round the Knights’ talented squad of two years ago reached, left the Fairview girls feeling as though they had succeeded at least in reestablishing one of the state’s consistently strong programs.
“After last season, we were almost embarrassed in a way to go from the Sweet 16 the year before to only winning seven games,” Fairview junior Adaya Richmond said. “Last year, we had a great first-round win over Fountain-Fort Carson and we really wanted to capitalize on that and make sure people know we’re still here. We’re not that seven-win team and with coach (Rod) Beauchamp coming back, we had a whole new energy and a whole new vibe around us that we wanted to show what we could do.”
The 2019-20 campaign was exactly the bounce-back season the Knights had hoped for after finishing with a 7-16 record but still winning a first-round playoff game last winter. In order to reach Tuesday’s game as the second-lowest seed still alive, The Knights squeaked past No. 43 Castle View by two points in the first round and upset No. 11 Denver South in the second round on Friday thanks to some second-half heroics from Richmond and senior guard Izzy Munson (20.7 ppg), who was among the state’s top scorers all season long.
The Knights scored the first field goal of their Sweet 16 game but did not make their second until just 57 seconds remained in the second half. They trailed 25-10 at halftime.
“They’re an excellent team and we knew we’d have our work cut out for us,” Beauchamp said. “We tried to slow things down a little bit but they got a lot of buckets in transition and it was hard for us to get shots off against their defense. But I’m proud of our team’s effort. I thought they fought hard throughout the whole game.”
Richmond and sophomore Kailey Page (10.8 ppg) each scored eight points to lead the Knights on Tuesday.
Highlands Ranch will face No. 3 Regis Jesuit in the Great 8 at the Denver Coliseum on Friday. Regis Jesuit narrowly defeated No. 14 Broomfield, 58-51, in a game that was tied at halftime on Tuesday night.