DENVER — When you have a superior amount of confidence, swagger and discipline, as the Windsor girls basketball team does, you’re not afraid to try something completely new even when your season is on the line in the final rounds of the postseason.
Coach Karin Nicholls and her Wizards squads have proven as much during past runs deep into the state tournament.
So, while other teams might be tempted to just stick to what they are most familiar with when sitting in a one-possession game with a whole half of basketball left to be played, Windsor flipped the script.
Determined to cut down Mead’s relentless interior driving game, the Wizards shifted to a 2-3 zone they had spent just a handful of minutes practicing this season.
The bold strategy worked, as fourth-seeded Windsor slowed the fifth-seeded Mavericks’ dangerous offense just enough to secure a 44-41 win in Thursday’s quarterfinals of the Class 5A girls basketball state tournament at the Denver Coliseum.
Windsor’s Samantha Darnell, right, splits through two Mead defenders to score while playing in the 5A state playoffs at the Denver Coliseum on Thursday March 2, 2023. The Wizards won 44-41.(Jim Rydbom/Staff Photographer)
“We had the 2-3 in our back pocket; I didn’t think we would have to use it as quickly as we did coming out of halftime,” Nicholls said. “But they executed it perfectly. … Our goal was to keep (the Mavericks) a little bit confused. We switched back to a man just enough to throw them off.”
With the victory, the Wizards improved to 19-7 and advanced to a semifinals date against upset-minded eighth seed Glenwood Springs (19-7) at 5:45 p.m. March 9 back at the Denver Coliseum.
A win against the Demons would place Windsor in a girls basketball state title game for the third consecutive season. The Wizards were the runner-up to Mullen the past two years in 4A.
Windsor may not have to worry about Mullen next week — the Mustangs played in the new 6A classification this season.
Windsor Hailee Wright, right, pressures Mead Gianna Wurth while playing in the 5A state playoffs at the Denver Coliseum on March 2, 2023.(Jim Rydbom/Staff Photographer)
Nonetheless, the potential path to their second state title in program history — their first since 1994 — isn’t likely to be any less difficult for the Wizards next week.
Then again, the path hasn’t exactly been easy so far, evidenced by the nip-and-tuck, grind-it-out affair Thursday against a Mead squad that Windsor split a pair of league games against during the regular season.
Though the Wizards quickly took the lead, behind their 2-3 zone, to open the second half, the Mavericks remained with a pair of baskets the rest of the way — trailing just 40-38 with 2 minutes, 45 seconds left.
“This was a big win and we’re very happy about it, but we also know the job is not done,” Windsor senior guard Hailee Wright said. “I don’t want to come short, in second place, again. I don’t want three second-place trophies. I’m over second place. I want a first-place trophy this year.”
Bobby Fernandez covers high school sports for the Greeley Tribune. Reach him at (970) 392-4478, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @BobbyDFernandez.
This article was originally published in Greeley Tribune