DENVER — It’s become nearly a decade-long trend for Ralston Valley girls basketball coach Jeff Gomer to bring his Mustangs down to the Denver Coliseum. For the fifth time in six seasons and sixth …
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DENVER — It’s become nearly a decade-long trend for Ralston Valley girls basketball coach Jeff Gomer to bring his Mustangs down to the Denver Coliseum.
For the fifth time in six seasons and sixth time over the past eight years the Mustangs advanced at least to the Great 8 of the Class 5A girls basketball state tournament. It took the defending 5A state champions —Cherry Creek — to end Ralston Valley’s season.
The No. 2-seeded Bruins defeated the No. 7 Mustangs 46-33 in the state quarterfinals March 6 at the Denver Coliseum.
“We executed what we wanted to defensively to hold that team to 46 points,” Ralston Valley coach Jeff Gomer said. “There were just so many missed opportunities. We missed layups and at the free-throw line.”
The Mustangs (20-6 record) shot 13-for-40 (32.5 percent) from the field and 3-for-10 from the charity stripe.
“We have to learn how to score better,” Gomer admitted. “All year long we’ve been pretty solid defensively.”
One of the lone bright spots offensively was Saya Sabus. The Ralston Valley sophomore was 6-for-7 from the field pouring in a team-high 14 points. She had nine points at halftime that clearly drew Cherry Creek’s coaching staff’s attention.
The Bruins (24-2) switched up defensively after halftime. Cherry Creek senior Jana Van Gytenbeek got the assignment to try to slowdown Sabus. Van Gytenbeek was named the Colorado girls basketball player of the year by Gatorade earlier on the day.
“That tells you something,” Gomer said of Cherry Creek putting Van Gytenbeek on Sabus defensively after halftime. “She (Sabus) has potential to become a really good offensive player. We’ll see what happens.”
Sabus had five points with Van Gytenbeek guarding her in the second half.
“I thought that was really cool,” Sabus said of the future Sanford University guard covering her one-on-one in the second half. “She is a great player and I’m proud to get a chance to play against her.”
Van Gytenbeek broke the all-time state record for career assists earlier this season. She added five more assists to her record against the Mustangs, but was held to a season-low two points.
Cherry Creek senior Cali Clark did the majority of the offensive damage for the Bruins. Clark scored a game-high 20 points and added 15 rebounds.
“We played together as a team,” Sabus said having to face the Bruins that defeated the Mustangs 79-40 a few weeks earlier. “We knew it was going to be the last game for our seniors. We wanted to go out, have fun and play hard for them.”
Ralston Valley graduates just three seniors — Ellie Schweiker, Madison Young and Emma Kenner. The Mustangs have a strong returning core of four starters that includes junior Sydney Bevington that nearly averaged a double-double this season.
“We came a long way,” Gomer said of the season. “We sputtered a lot early. We were winning games, but not playing really well. I’m proud of this team. I don’t think a lot of people expected us to be here. We did.”
Ralston Valley’s intention is to make a sixth trip in seven years back to the Denver Coliseum next season.
“We are going to come back here,” Sabus said of her first trip playing in the Denver Coliseum. “It was an amazing experience just being surrounded by such great players.”
Dennis Pleuss is a media specialist for Jeffco Public Schools with a focus on athletics and activities. For more Jeffco coverage, go online at CHSAANow.com.
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