High school basketball: All-time greatest girls players from Colorado Springs

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Who selected the players?

Gazette Preps did not cast a vote in selecting these players, but rather oversaw the creation of a voting committee that brought a combined 176 years of coaching at the high school level, 125 years of officiating experience, another 97 years of coaching girls in the area at a level other than high school (middle school, summer league, club, etc.) and there were three high-level players in the group. Included were the coaches of each of the Colorado Springs area’s four state championship teams at 4A or higher and votes were cast or input gathered from all 11 of the coaches or parents of runners-up at the top three classifications dating back to 1980. The group also has experience as school administrators and teachers in the area, and voters held close ties to, among others, Air Academy, Coronado, Doherty, Harrison, Liberty, Mesa Ridge, Mitchell, Palmer, Pine Creek, Sand Creek and Widefield. The Gazette also solicited input from the public, and provided that to those serving at our committee meeting. Suggestions were also provided by Hall of Fame Colorado coach Ceal Berry. Gazette Preps compiled a similar list for the boys in 2012

THE GAZETTE’S ALL-TIME ALL-AREA GIRLS’ BASKETBALL TEAM
First team


Chucky Jeffery, Sierra (2009) One-person wrecking crew for Sierra who later starred at Colorado and played in WNBA - in the photo above

Val Johnson, Doherty (1994) Helped Doherty to three state final appearances; injuries derailed college career that started at CU

Sherrice King, Rampart (1988) Gatorade Player of the Year in the state who later captained Colorado’s Elite 8 team

Erin Scholz, Doherty (1993)* “She was a beast,” committee member said of state champ, CU Hall of Famer

Jessika Stratton, Coronado (2000) Elevated Cougars program with “killer” mentality before starring at Baylor

*Received the most votes

Second team


Carrie Bacon, Harrison (1988) With twin sister, had three state runner-up finishes; starred at Wyoming and professionally

Jenny Coalson, Ellicott (1995) Do-everything star for small school who then launched successful career with Kansas State

Stephanie Frisch, Doherty (1995) “Only elementary school player I tried to recruit,” one coach joked; UCCS’ all-time top scorer

Alicia Godette, Doherty (2003) One of the great athletes in city history, played on two state runners-up and at Arizona State

Kylee Shook, Mesa Ridge (2016) State’s all-time leader in rebounds (1,299) and blocked shots (620), now playing at Louisville - in photo above

Third team


Ambrosia Anderson, Doherty (2002) 6-2 lefty led Doherty to two state title games before starring at BYU and in WNBA

Amy Bladow, Lewis-Palmer (2003) Doubled as state champion volleyball player, which was the sport she played at Wisconsin

Shana Coleman, Widefield (2001) Starred on two Gladiator state runner-up teams; played at UNLV

Melody Johnson, Palmer (1997) Double-double machine before the stat was tracked; played at CU, Arizona State and WNBA

Kaitlyn Mileto, Mesa Ridge (2011) Prolific scorer for Grizzlies, who later was a four-year starter at Wyoming - in the photo above

Fourth team

Shamela Hampton, Sierra (2005) Followed standout career with Stallions with career at UNLV, professionally overseas

Carol Lillie, Mitchell (1979) Elicits a change in tone when discussed by contemporaries for ahead-of-her-time athleticism

Fatima Maddox, Mesa Ridge (2003) Possessed top-end skills that later helped her land a spot with the Harlem Globetrotters - in photo above

Danielle Page, Lewis-Palmer (2004) Played at Nebraska and earned a bronze medal with Serbia at 2016 Olympics

D’Shara Strange, Fountain-Fort Carson (2010) Standout scorer who played at Northern Colorado then professionally in Europe and is now coaching in college

Honorable mention

Christy Bacon, Harrison (1988); Lolita Curtis, Harrison (1980); Brittany Hernandez, Air Academy (2012); Ada Gee-deProsse, Wasson (1979); Jacque Johnson, Doherty (1996); Denise Nehme, Harrison (1988); Jackie McWilliams, Sierra (1987); Mikayla Reese, Sand Creek (2014); Nikki Swagger, Doherty (1997); Chloe Welch, Mesa Ridge (2018) - in photo above

TOP FROM SMALL SCHOOLS

(Players from all schools were eligible for inclusion on the all-time list, with Ellicott’s Jenny Coalson making her way onto the second team)

Megann Alberts, CSCS (2005)

Kelly Ben, Falcon (1989)

Kelsey Burkett, St. Mary’s (2003)

Kim Denson, Peyton (1984)

Megan Engesser, CSCS (2019)

Barb Fox, Florence (1984)

Alicia Glover, Calhan (1988)

DaLynn Gotschall, Calhan (1980)

Nicol Graham, Florence (1987)

Bailey Haist, Vanguard (2013)

Diana Huber, St. Mary’s (1980)

Vanessa Leeper, CSS (2008)

Shelby Megyeri, Manitou Springs (2017) - in photo above

Hattie Peach, Hanover-Edison (1990)

Christina Whitelaw, St. Mary’s (2010)

*All players listed in alphabetical order

ALL-TIME AREA GIRLS’ BASKETBALL: SUPERLATIVES

Top trailblazers – Lolita Curtis, Harrison; Carol Lillie, Mitchell

Lillie was perhaps the first star player in the area, with Curtis recalling how she would take on – and beat – some of the top boys players in the area like Sherlock Holmes. One comparison put Lillie, who grew up competing with six brothers, on a level with women’s great Cheryl Miller. “She changed the game for girls in the city,” one emailer to The Gazette said of Lillie’s impact during the decade that Title IX first brought girls’ basketball to public schools. But academic issues kept Lillie from eligibility at times and life decisions derailed Lillie’s path to becoming a great player. The same did not happen to Curtis, who was The Gazette’s Player of the Year as she led Harrison to a 3A (when 3A was the largest classification) runner-up finish in 1980, the first appearance in a state final for a team from the city. Her high school coach James Tucker calls Curtis the best player in city history and among the best to ever play in the state. She enjoyed a stellar career at Colorado College and still ranks in the top 30 in several categories despite suffering several injuries.

Best back story – Fatima Maddox, Mesa Ridge

Maddox struggled early in high school as a shooter, and her coaches soon learned the reason – her lackluster vision. Contact lenses fixed that. Soon, the coaches discovered other ways in which she was deprived. Often the only meal she would eat was the one she was provided at school. Coaches would often drive her to school, never knowing what level of disarray they would find surrounding her in the mornings. Yet despite this, Maddox developed into a standout player, attended Temple and later earned a master’s in Business Administration, fulfilling a goal she had set in order to set an example for her nieces and nephews. She played professionally in Sweden before becoming the ninth female member of the Harlem Globetrotters.

Best free-throw shooter – Taylor Torres, Palmer
The four-year starter isn’t just the best from the foul line in area history, but her 85.9 percent career mark is a state record. Torres led Palmer in scoring, assists and free throws over each of her four seasons (2008-2012) and was then the RMAC Freshman of the Year at Colorado Christian – where she posted four of the program’s top five free-throw percentage seasons on record.

Best on-ball defender – Tiara Harris, Pine Creek


Described by our panel as a lengthy and smooth at 5-foot-10 with an imposing wing span, excellent body control and the brains and willingness to put it all together as a defender. Harris played in college at San Diego, where she was a first-team all-West Coast Conference selection. “Her value to this team goes far beyond the basketball court,” her college coach Cindy Fisher said when naming her team MVP as a senior.

Best coach – Butch Thorpe, Harrison


Thorpe didn’t win the big one, but he kept leading teams teams right to the cusp. He coached Harrison to runner-up finishes in 1996, '97 and '98. The runner-up trend continued when Thorpe moved to coaching Harrison's boys team. In 2006, Thorpe and the Harrison boys lost in the state finals. And the trend was passed down, as one of his former players and assistants, Jerry Austin, also took the Panthers boys team to a runner-up finish in 2007, the year after Thorpe resigned.

Also of note
Memorable mother-daughter combo: Sherri Bently of Widefield was The Gazette’s 4A Player of the Year in 1990. Twenty-one years later her daughter, Kaitlyn Mileto, took the same honor for Mesa Ridge.

All in the family: Nate Engesser (CSCS, 2012) was honored as a top area boys' player when The Gazette named an all-time boys' team in 2012. His sister Megan earned the same recognition on the girls' team.

Best twins: Carrie, photographed above, and Christy Bacon, the twins took Harrison to three runner-up finishes before playing together at Wyoming and then launching long careers in Europe.

Most prolific shooter: Victoria Goodman made 314 3s in her career at Peyton (2011-15), leaving with the state’s all-time record.

Best program: Doherty. How could it be anyone else? Playing in the state's largest classification, it owns the area's two 5A titles and finished second on three other occasions. The Spartans won 39 straight in 1991-92.

Top prospect to track: Ashten Prechtel of Discovery Canyon, a 6-foot-5 center, is ranked by ESPN as the No. 25 recruit in the class of 2019.