DENVER - A run to the Great 8 defines your season as being great.
But don’t tell Ralston Valley girls’ basketball team that. No. 3 Mustangs had designs on winning a state championship.
However, they were beaten 57-43 by No. 1 Highlands Ranch in the Great 8 in the 5A Colorado High School State Basketball Tournament March 7 at the Denver Coliseum.
But it wasn’t for lack of effort. For four full quarters the Mustangs showed why they were the class of 5A Jeffco playing a brand of defense that was championship caliber.
Offensively, however, Ralston Valley wasn’t right. The Mustangs averaged over 60 points per game in the regular season. They were barely able to produce two-thirds of that against Highlands Ranch.
“We usually don’t get shaken but we got a little shook tonight. They are big, physical, long and athletic, and that is why they are the No. 1 seed,” Ralston Valley coach Jeff Gomer said.
The Mustangs came out on fire hitting back-to-back three pointers early in the first quarter. But their offense dried up in the second quarter and Highlands Ranch outscored Ralston Valley 18-6 and took a 35-21 lead into halftime.
Despite a second half rally Highlands Ranch used their length to frustrate the Mustangs all evening and showed why they are one of the favorites themselves to win a state championship.
“We have nothing to be ashamed of. We are a good team, they are a good team and they played better than us tonight,” Gomer said. “But we are also a heck of a team and we had a pretty special season.”
Moreover, even in the loss Ralston Valley’s Kaylynn Iszler produced one of the incredible single efforts of the entire tournament.
Iszler led Ralston Valley with 15 points. And while that number might not be overwhelming her defense was.
Iszler was on the floor nearly a dozen times; diving for loose balls, battling bigger girls for possession of the ball and simply giving her body up repeatedly in order to give her team another possession.
Iszler’s individual effort kept the Mustangs in a game that could have been a blowout. But she also had help. Junior Sierra Galbreath scored eight points and Ralston Valley’s four other seniors battled until the end - with multiple players even diving to the ground for a ball in the game’s final seconds.
“I love basketball, and I am not afraid to lose because I know I played my best. Even though there is just 20 seconds left you don’t stop because it’s the passion you have and you want to play all the way until the end,” Iszler said.
“This was our last game of course we are going to dive to the ground and bleed. We wanted to leave them thinking that we played our best all the way until the end and we did.”
Iszler, who proved herself as one of the elite players in all of 5A this season, is as good of a quote as she is basketball player.
“Our seniors have been playing together for seven years we are more than a team we are a family. And we are proud of everything we were able to accomplish,” Iszler said.
Ralston Valley produced one of the best seasons in school history, winning 23 games (23-3) and going a perfect 16-0 in 5A Jeffco.