Sabercats girls coach looks back, forward

Only three seniors on hoops team will graduate this year

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Hindsight is something many basketball coaches can't avoid at the end of the season.

Castle View girls coach Matt Hema reflected on what could have been after the Sabercats saw their season end with a 16-9 record following a 60-36 Sweet 16 loss to top-seeded Highlands Ranch in the Class 5A state playoffs on Feb. 28.

It was the fifth loss in a Sweet 16 game in the past six seasons for Castle View.

“We were 15-8 in the regular season, which was pretty good,” said Hema. “The highest we've even been is 16-7 so we were right in that range. There were a couple losses in there that we felt like if we had played better we could have won.

“It's funny when you look back maybe if we could have won those, it would have pushed us far enough away that we would not of had to play Ranch in the third round.”

Highlands Ranch used a 12-0 run in the first quarter to take command and then used a big third quarter to seal the victory.

“We had to go against the No. 1 overall team,” said Hema. “So that's tough. Ranch is good and they've been good for a long time. They are always good, they play hard and they play fast. You turn the ball over, don't make shots and it's tough to stay with them. That happened to us both times we played them this season.”

Castle View, with nine underclass players on its playoff roster, got remarkable balanced scoring with the four top scorers within a point of each other.

Sophomore McKay Vansickle was the Sabercats' leading scorer with an 8.2 point-per-game average followed by sophomore India Cole at 7.6 and sophomore Madison Hema, the daughter of the coach, and senior Brandi Bain both coming in with 7.3 scoring averages.

Hema led the team in rebounding with eight a game while senior Hannah Cushman handed out a team-high 3.6 assists per game. Junior Abbie Cooley was tops with 2.8 steals per game.

“I really like the balanced scoring rather than having one person doing it all,” said Hema. “It's easy to key on that person. Sometimes the problem you have with that is when you need somebody to take over. There's a fine line between having that person that just wants the ball all the time and can go score and having that person that can get the bucket when you need it.

“With a team that is well balanced sometimes when you get in tough situations you don't really have the go-to person.”

Castle View hopes to find a player or players that can help them advance to at least the Great 8 in the next few years.

“We only lose three seniors,” continued Hema. “We don't lose a ton out of the program. And our core, our leading scorer and rebounder, our leading shot blocker and some of the higher percentage players are coming back.

“We've got feeder kids coming up. We had four teams this season. We were the only Continental League team that had four programs. So we had a lot of girls playing basketball. We have to find those players that can get us over the hump in this third-round losing chain.”

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