At this time last year, the girls' basketball programs at Liberty and Pine Creek were 5A playoff bound, but with dark clouds overhead.
Both had interim coaches finish seasons after tumult at each school.
This week, a pair of first-year coaches, Kyle Spencer at Liberty and Janean Jubic at Pine Creek, lead their respective squads into the postseason after drama-free campaigns that have allowed scars to heal.
"There's a lot more positivity now, and that translates through and we get good play out of it," said junior Morgan Sibley, whose No. 30-seeded Lancers (13-10) host No. 35 Eaglecrest (9-14) at 7 p.m. Tuesday. "Any stuff that was going on is gone now, and we don't have that issue anymore. It's a team effort now."
The Lancers made history last February, winning the program's first playoff game since 2008 under junior varsity coach Monty Taylor, who assumed interim duties after Mike Broekhuis resigned earlier in the month.
In early May, Rye native and former Otero Junior College women's basketball coach Spencer was selected to take over the reins and led Liberty to its most regular-season wins in more than a decade.
"When I came in, the group that was here was really hungry for success, regardless of what had happened in the past," Spencer said. "They just wanted a chance to do great things. I'm blessed with great kids that want to show up and play hard every day."
Jubic, who didn't arrive at Pine Creek until mid-July, inherited a senior-heavy team that went 20-5 a season ago but was stunned by the sudden resignation of first-year coach Kenny VanRyn just three days before the team's playoff opener.
On Friday, the 13th-seeded Eagles (17-6) host either Poudre or Mountain View in a second-round contest with a much different outlook and perspective under Jubic's lead.
"After last year, a lot of us were broken," senior forward Spencer Lindsey said. "The new staff has been healing to us. We're all family. This has been a good experience coming back from last year. Now, I think we're better prepared to be successful in the playoffs."
Through it all, Jubic insists that persevering through adversity indeed builds character that extends well beyond the basketball court.
"These kids are better for it," said Jubic, who played college basketball at Colorado-Colorado Springs and Colorado Christian before serving as an assistant at CSU-Pueblo and Air Force. "They have that life experience that a lot of high school students don't have to go through. It has been a challenging year, but I think we're ready."