DENVER - St. Mary's senior guard Olivia Florek, the team's leading scorer, was reduced mostly to a spectator in her final game with the Pirates.
Her team pushed on, fearlessly, but lost to No. 1 Sterling 44-38 in the 3A quarterfinals Thursday at the University of Denver.
The Pirates (21-4) led most the way despite their leader, Florek, playing sparingly because of a badly sprained knee.
They, however, couldn't hold on in the fourth quarter.
Florek, who was 0 for 4 from the field in limited minutes, returned to the court in the final 60 seconds as the Pirates looked to tie the game, down 40-38. But they missed three shots in a matter of moments and the Tigers held on for the victory to push their record to 25-0.
"This team is incredible, I'm so proud of them," said Florek, who twisted her knee last weekend in the round of 16 on a wet spot. "They are definitely going to come back next year and make a statement."
Junior Makenna Bodette led St. Mary's with 15 points, while Josephine Howery proved why she's considered one of the top 3A freshman guards in the state as she played with confidence and composure. She finished with nine points.
The Pirates will return four of their five leading scorers next season, something St. Mary's coach Mike Burkett admits he's excited to think about, just not quite yet.
"They played hard and gave them everything they could ask for," Burkett said. "It's hard to say goodbye to (the seniors)."
The Tigers, who were led by Brooke Polenz's 14 points, will face No. 4 Colorado Springs Christian in the 3A semifinals Friday.
The game is back at DU and is expected to start at 7 p.m.