The Kit Carson Girls basketball program is a story of tremendous tradition and success. Out of the past 12 seasons, and even during COVID, the Lady Wildcats have clawed their way to 9 state tournaments. Even more impressive is the fact they won three state championships in a row from 2016-17 through 2018-19 going undefeated in all three seasons. Prior to those years, the Lady Wildcats were at the state tournament three years in a row from 2013-14 to 2015-16 where they placed two out of the three years. Since those glorious days after 2019’s state championship, the Lady Wildcats went to state in 2021 where they lost out and came home with no hardware. Last season they lost in the regionals to Springfield and were again denied a state trip.
This year, the Wildcats and the Lady Longhorns were still connected and ended up having to play each other again to go to state. After defeating #23 Sierra Grande in a big score of 64-24, they faced off with Springfield with the winner punching their ticket to the state tournament coming up this weekend at Butler-Hancock Arena in Greeley. The 17-7 Wildcats played perhaps some of their best ball of the season easily defeating the Longhorns, 46-22.
Head coach Sara Crawford said of the wins at the regional tournament, “I feel like our team is peaking at the right time. Hallelujah! I’m proud of these girls. They’ve decreased their turnovers and increased their productivity on both side of the ball. Confidence is a crucial aspect of an athlete’s game and that seems to be increasing too with each game.
In the first round of the Regionals the Wildcats took care of Sierra Grande (#23, 12-10) in short order by sending a strong message in the first quarter. KC would produce 23 points in the initial stanza to Sierra Grande’s 5 points and things just continued to slip downhill after that.
The seniors for Kit Carson who had been there before were firing on all cylinders as Kenzie Waggoner led all scorers with 15 points and Torrie Randel added 11 points. Tess Johnson, who had a phenomenal regional tournament produced a double-double performance with 11 points and a whopping 14 rebounds. The senior also added 4 assists and 3 steals to her stat sheet. Guard Nadaya Buttry added 8 points, while freshman Shay Booker-Rady had a solid game contributing 7 points, 8 boards, and 5 steals.
It was the third meeting this year for Springfield (#7, 15-6) and Kit Carson. The Longhorns actually came in 3 ranking points up on Kit Carson despite the fact that the Wildcats had beaten them already twice in the regular season. They first met this year in the third-place game at the well-attended Lamar Holiday Basketball Tournament where the Cats got the third-place trophy with a 42-22 win. Then they met again in the regular season and again the Cats grabbed the important win on Feb. 4, 36-23.
It is very hard to beat a good team three times, and it was pretty close after the first quarter where the Cats had gained a slight 14-10 edge. However, by the second and third quarters Kit Carson had the game in control as they used their superior size to pound the ball inside for the win.
Johnson, for the second night in a row, gave her team a double-double performance with 22 points and 15 rebounds. Waggoner was against strong for the Cats continuing from the night before putting in 13 points and pulling down 8 boards. Lindsey Mayhan, the athletic ball general for the team added 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals.
The Wildcat seniors in Johnson, Waggoner, and Torrie Randel know what it takes to get to the state tournament as they saw it done many times when they were younger. But now it is their turn to guide the Wildcat program. It’s going to be a tough road to hoe, however, as they will face off against #2 Flatirons Academy (22-1). Their only loss game in their first game back from the holiday break on January 6 with a 66-64 loss to Resurrection Christian, a strong 4A team.
Game time will be 4:00 pm on Thursday, March 9 in Greeley.
Coach Crawford is optimist for her team and knows every trip to the state tournament represents a big bonus for a school’s program, “It was exciting waking up this morning knowing we’re moving on. We know we have our work cut out for us and that nothing will come easy at the state tournament, but that’s nothing new for us. We’re used to having to fight for everything. It’s going to be fun!”