Back in the Familiar Final Four

Arapahoe’s Girls Basketball team set to make history.


Jack Winslow, Sports Journalist

For the Arapahoe Girls’ Basketball team, making deep playoff runs is in their DNA. Last season, the girls cruised to the final four under the leadership of Sam Crispe, who now plays for Boston University, a team that’s currently first in the Patriot League, sporting a 17-1 record in conference play and a 23-7 record overall. Needless to say, Crispe was the X-Factor night in and night out for the Warriors. 


After losing to the Valor Christian Eagles in the final four last year and losing Crispe, their leading scorer and rebounder, among four other seniors, many doubted the Warriors would make it past the second round of the state playoffs. 


But the girls proved everyone wrong. Under the leadership of coach Knafelc and excellent backcourt play from seniors Sydney White and Emily Thomas, and Sophomore Gianna Smith, this year’s team has a chance to do something really special. 


After winning eight straight games to end the regular season as well as claiming the Centennial League Championship, the girls were getting hot at just the right time. However, even after topping number 5 Cherokee Trail and number 11 Grandview – who’s also in the final four – they received the 8 seed heading into the state playoffs; just another log added to the fire fueling the girls. They’d been disrespected the whole season, so another blow only made them want to prove themselves more. 


After blowing past Denver East and Thunderridge in the first two rounds, the girls were set to play number 1 Valor at the Coliseum in the great eight, the team that ended their season last year. The feeling of deja vu was hard to ignore, especially after the Eagles of Valor Christian threatened to extend the lead to double digits midway through the third quarter. If the Warriors wanted to keep their season alive, it was now or never. And when it mattered most, the Warriors stepped up. 


Gianna Smith, the D1-bound sophomore, dropped 24 points. Sydney White, the senior Cal Baptist commit, put in 16 of her own. And controlling the floor, Emily Thomas contributed 8 assists and 8 rebounds. 


In the end, a mentally strong performance propelled the Warriors past the Eagles 62-54, giving the girls their second straight final four appearance. After the game, senior Shannon McInally had this to say, “I think a big thing was that they knocked us out last year. So it’s pretty cool to be able to do the same.” While the girls celebrate, they know there is more work to be done. 


This Friday, the Warriors will take on the number 4 Monarch Coyotes, a team whose only loss came back in December, to Regis, who Monarch just beat in the great eight. Monarch is backed by three seniors, Natalie Guanella, Amelia Rosin, and Arezo Safi. These three make up a dynamic offense that is reliant on size and attacking the rim. But their defense is what makes them a final four team. They’ve only given up one 50+ point game from an opposing team the entire season. With that being said, the Warriors know how to defend as well, only giving up 54 points to Valor and 43 to Grandview a few weeks prior is no small task. 


This game will come down to who is willing to dive on the floor for loose balls, put their body on the line and take a charge, and ultimately, do whatever it takes to stay alive one more game. Emily Thomas is ready “to experience another final four”. And so is the tribe. 


Tip-off is set to 2:15 Friday at the Denver Coliseum, the whole tribe needs to be there.