Mesa Ridge girls' basketball overwhelms Sierra in playoff tuneup

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The faces and names may change, but the Mesa Ridge girls' basketball team is consistently one of the best in the state.

The Grizzlies (19-4, 15-1 4A Metro) finished off another dominant regular season and landed their fourth 4A Metro title in five years with a 76-65 road win over Sierra (14-9, 11-5).

In the past, it's been Kaitlyn Mileto or Kylee Shook for Mesa Ridge. Now, it's Chloe Welch and Ashley Bowen.

Welch, a junior guard, scored 27 points and added 13 rebounds and four assists. Bowen, a sophomore center, also had a monster game with 23 points and 12 rebounds.

"When we're clicking, we're pretty potent," Mess Ridge coach Jeff Beatty said. "We not only have Chloe and Ashley, but also a lot of other good shooters. It can be a long night for our opponents, and I think we're starting to peak offensively at the right time."

Welch scored 16 of her points in the first half, and when the Stallions tried to slow her down with more attention in the second half, Bowen went to work - scoring 14 points in the final 16 minutes.

"Having Ashley makes everyone's life much easier, because we don't have to rely on outside shots," said Welch, who is already getting looks from Division I colleges. "We're ready for the playoffs to start - we're feeling good and playing well."

The win Thursday night not only kept the momentum rolling for Mesa Ridge, which has won six of seven, but it also should ensure a top-8 seed in the 4A state tournament, which means home games until the quarterfinals.

Mesa Ridge entered the week eighth in the RPI which is used to seed the state qualifiers.

"It's always good to play a strong team like Sierra to end the season, because it prepares us better for the playoffs than an easy game," Bowen said. "We have great team chemistry this year - there's no drama, and we all support each other. We want to go to state."

The game was never really in doubt, as the Grizzlies led 38-26 at the half, and were able to keep control the rest of the way. Sierra cut the deficit to five points with two minutes left, but Welch iced the game at the free throw line.

"Chloe has a really good first step, but you can't play off her too far, because she will shoot the three," Sierra coach Joe Williams said. "For us, we didn't share the ball enough on offense tonight and left a lot of points on the table. We need to find an identity for the playoffs, but we can play with Mesa Ridge, so I feel like we can play with anybody in the state."

Sierra freshman point guard D'Nae Wilson had a nice game offensively with 16 points, and was also tasked with chasing Welch around all game. She and Aubrey Robinson (17 points) kept the Stallions in it, but they couldn't come all the way back from an early hole.

"We bailed them out with some easy baskets and some free throws, and we can't do that in the playoffs," Wilson said. "We have to pass and rebound better."