It’s the end for two storied basketball legacies at Widefield.
Boys’ basketball coach Mark Munoz is retiring after 21 years with the Gladiators, while girls’ coach Jim Mason is calling it quits after 22 seasons.
Munoz was on the sideline for the final time Saturday as the Gladiators fell 70-67 to Lewis-Palmer in the Class 4A state playoffs’ quarterfinals. Matthew Ragsdale’s 3-pointer at the buzzer was the difference.
It capped off Widefield’s deepest postseason run in a decade.
“We went into the season with very high expectations and we felt like we could have an epic year,” said Munoz, who is also stepping away from teaching after 31 years. “Obviously you want that gold ball at the end. … But I told the kids after, you won 21 games, you were league champs – that’s something to be proud of.”
Girls’ coach Jim Mason, meanwhile, has one or two games remaining. His team heads to the state semifinals following Aaliyah Ricketts’ game-winner over Golden in Friday’s 50-49 victory.
Mason said for his remaining game(s) he wants to “ride into the sunset on these girls’ coattails”. The coach said at the beginning of the season the Gladiators had three goals – compete for a league title, host a second-round playoff game and reach the quarterfinals – and they accomplished all of them.
“I asked them the other day, ‘You’ve met every goal I’ve set for you. Are you satisfied?’” recalled Mason, whose team will face defending-champ Evergreen Thursday. “They said ‘No, no, we want to go to the Coliseum. They’re feeding off one each other right now.’”
Ellicott returns to 2A quarterfinals
The boys’ basketball team at Ellicott is headed back to the 2A quarterfinals for the second time in three years.
Before that, the Thunderhawks hadn’t made the state quarters in 17 years.
Ellicott punched its ticket with a 55-49 overtime win over Calhan in the Region 7 finals on Saturday.
The Thunderhawks (15-9) wasted a 17-point lead in the fourth before refocusing in the extra period. It was their sixth straight win, a feat that didn’t seem feasible after a 2-5 start to the year.
“We’ve never played better than how we are right now,” Ellicott coach Jeffrey Zick said. “It’s been a team I don’t think a lot of people expected a lot from this year.”
The No. 7 Thunderhawks will face No. 2 Yuma at the Budweiser Events Center Thursday.
Mesa Ridge riding offense on deep run
The makeup of this year’s Mesa Ridge girls’ basketball team is far different than the squad that won the state title in 2014.
Their fate? Well, that’s starting to look sweetly familiar.
“This is the best offensive team I’ve ever had, there’s no question about it,” said Mesa Ridge coach Jeff Beatty, whose team rallied to beat Pueblo West in the 4A quarterfinals Friday. “The (2014) team was built on defense, so they’re completely polarizing as far as that aspect is.
“But this team is starting to feel like a team of destiny. We’re starting to get games that ‘How the hell did we win’ kind of stuff? To (where) we’re just good enough to win.’”
The No. 8 Grizzlies face No. 12 Pueblo South in the semifinals at the Denver Coliseum Thursday. They beat the Colts by 19 to begin the year.
“They’re way better,” Beatty warned. “We’re not playing the same team, so we’ll see what happens.”
If Mesa Ridge and Widefield win Thursday, the schools separated by four miles would face each other in an all-Widefield District 3 state final.
“That would be pretty amazing,” Beatty said. “I don’t know if sister schools have had that happen, but that would be pretty amazing.”