One more … there’s one more step for Mullen.
The Mustangs will go play for a fourth consecutive championship after their 55-25 drubbing of Green Mountain on Thursday in the Class 4A semifinals at the Denver Coliseum. They will meet top-seeded and undefeated Windsor (26-0) in the final at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, a second-consecutive championship matchup between the two schools.
In improving to 20-6 on the season, they rolled to their 18th consecutive playoff victory, played defense – again -- as if their lives depended on it and spanked yet another postseason victim. Through four playoff games since going 16-6 in a regular-season schedule dominated by 5A teams, Mullen’s margin of victory over Coronado, Berthoud, Roosevelt and now the Jefferson County Rams, who ended 24-3, is a whopping 40.3 points.
“What I was most worried about,” head coach Frank Cawley said, “was a close game. I was kind of happy that it was a close game (at halftime) and I thought we were ready for that.
“They just have that mentality of ‘We’re not going to lose.’”
Even in a first half in which Mullen made only 9-of-28 shots and led just 22-15, Cawley welcomed it.
It didn’t stay close after halftime. The Mustangs went on a 14-0 binge, outscored the Rams 20-5 for the quarter and made 9-of-12 shots, mostly from inside.
“I just think that a lot of us were a little stressed because there’s a lot of pressure on us, it’s our fourth time,” senior center Imani Perez said. “It was close for a while and we had to pull it together.
“But once we started getting the ball inside, it was a big part of changing the game.”
Sophomore Allison Schwertner scored all eight of her points in the third quarter. Senior Gracie Gallegos added six of her team-high 13 as Mullen began pulling away with the separation it craved. Nine Mullen players scored, including 12 by Kilah Freelon, seven by Tatum Jones off the bench and six by Perez.
All the while, the Mustangs defense did its thing. Green Mountain managed double figure-points in only the second quarter. And the Rams scored only 14 over the other three.
In addition, the Rams made only one field goal in the second half – late in the third quarter – and six for the game. Of the 39 shot attempts it faced, Mullen permitted only 1-of-15 on 3-pointers and blocked 11 shots.
Perez, too, led a huge edge in rebounding. The Mustangs grabbed a commanding 50 of them, 14 by Perez and eight by the very athletic Freelon. Green Mountain had 21.
Never mind the Mustangs attempted only seven free throws. It didn’t matter.
“We definitely work on our defense and our length helps,” Perez said.
Mullen is surrendering a meager 25.3 points in the postseason.
Now, the Mustangs will have another go against Windsor. They won 67-44 the past season at World Arena in Colorado Springs with no fans.
Gallegos and Perez have been starters since their freshmen seasons and are looking forward to a fitting cap.
“It feels amazing,” Perez said of the opportunity to play for another championship. “Four years in a row and to get to another championship … it’s good pressure. I really enjoy this team. They’re great girls.”
Cawley is chasing a seventh championship – he has headed four for Mustangs girls and been an assistant with the Mullen boys and Cherry Creek boys during their title runs.
“I told Gracie today that I don’t know how l’m going to coach a game without her,” he said. “She has always guarded the other team’s best player. And she has stopped them. She just has that kind of mentality.
“The best part of this year is that some of it is rubbing off on other girls. They definitely have that same mentality.”
MULLEN 55, GREEN MOUNTAIN 25
Green Mountain 4 11 5 5 – 25
Mullen 11 11 20 13 – 55
Mullen -- Gutierrez 1 0-0 2, Perez 2 2-2 6, Freelon 5 2-2 12, Schwertner 4 0-0 8, Gallegos 6 0-0 13, Giacomin 1 0-0 3, Jones 3 1-2 7, Zienkewicz 1 0-0 2, DeLoach 1 0-1 2, Thomas 0 0-0 0, Arangua-Egbert 0 0-0 0, Wood 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 5-7 55
3 –pt. goals – Gallegos, Giacomin.