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Girls basketball: No. 5 Monarch drops the hammer on No. 10 Columbine

Four players reach double figures for Coyotes in big nonleague matchup

Monarch's Hayley Luther goes up for a bucket during the first half of the Coyotes' road game at Columbine on Monday.
Monarch’s Hayley Luther goes up for a bucket during the first half of the Coyotes’ road game at Columbine on Monday.

LITTLETON — Even without one of its best players, Monarch girls basketball has proven that it ranks among the best of the best teams in Class 5A.

On Monday night, in a twice-rescheduled matchup at No. 10 Columbine, the No. 5 Coyotes came out firing on all cylinders before putting away the Rebels in a 54-40 finish. In doing so, they improved to 19-1 on the season, their only blemish a five-point loss against Rocky Mountain just a few weeks earlier.

They lost an ace in junior Amelia Rosin that game due to injury. She had been averaging 12.4 points, but her teammates have more than stepped up since. On Monday night, junior guard Natalie Guanella netted 14 points as junior forward Arezo Safi (12 points), junior forward Caroline Walley (10 points) and sophomore forward Hayley Luther (10 points) followed her lead.

“We always emphasize defense,” head coach Mike Blakely said, “so to be able to come out and guard and with Millie out — we were like OK, they have this big kid and our big kid’s out and they’ve got some really good athletes — it was like how are we going to do this?

“We just said we were going to get after it and we did.”

The greatest win, however, came just before tipoff. In a show of great kindness and unity, the Columbine athletic department presented the Coyotes with a banner filled with supportive messages from the Columbine and Chatfield communities in the wake of the Marshall Fire. They gifted the team and Monarch athletic department at large with money and gift cards.

Columbine players gift a banner of support to Monarch girls basketball before the Coyotes’ game at Columbine on Monday night. Columbine and Chatfield also gifted the Coyotes with money and gift cards that they raised after the Marshall Fire.

The game was originally supposed to be played just days after the fire wreaked havoc in Louisville and Superior, but Columbine was kind enough to postpone it.

“It’s been so awesome,” Blakely said. “The basketball community of Colorado is just so together and so giving, even tonight.”

Throughout the matchup, the Coyotes got down and dirty on defense as they relied on their sharpshooters to boost them. They opened the game strong by posting the first 13 points on the scoreboard, before the Rebels were able to get a handle on things defensively. However, the Coyotes still carried the momentum and held a 32-17 halftime lead.

The Rebels came out fighting much harder at the start of the third quarter but the Coyote defense, led by Safi, wore them down throughout the final quarter to be able to put them away.

Now, the ladies have just three games left in the regular season before discovering their fate in the 5A state tournament seeding. With only Mountain Range, Broomfield and Loveland left on the docket, they’ll be a dangerous team once the postseason begins.

Colorado better watch out.

“This was definitely, I feel like, our toughest game this season,”  Safi said. “It was a really big win against a really good team, so I think it just boosted our confidence. We’re still going to work really hard, but I’m really excited for the playoffs.”

Monarch’s Arezo Safi defends against Columbine’s Jessica Bollwahn during the first half of the Coyotes’ road game at Columbine on Monday.