CLEARMONT — The Arvada-Clearmont High School basketball teams begin the season Thursday in Upton. The Panthers and Lady Panthers traversed through vastly different 2017-18 campaigns. Where the girls team raised their first conference championship banner in more than a decade, the boys team struggled, only capturing a few victories on the season.
The Lady Panthers couldn’t have scripted a better 2017-18 regular season, and they couldn’t have envisioned of a more disappointing end. AC won its conference outright but fell flat come region tournament time, failing to win a single game as the top seed.
While the Lady Panthers could certainly view last season as a letdown, they’ve decided to look at it in a more positive light.
“It obviously didn’t go how we wanted it,” AC’s McKenna Auzqui said. “I think there were a lot of things we could call a success and that were good for us that happened last year.”
There’s reason to believe a lot of good will weave its way into this season, as well. Auzqui returns alongside other starters — Kristin Klaahsen, Ashlynn Fennema, Krista Malli and a rotation that includes Kerri Malli, Taz Smith and Kailei Beam — who haven’t taken a tepid approach when speaking about the outlook to the upcoming season.
“We are definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with this year,” Klaahsen said. “We’ve got a lot of potential and a lot to look forward to. We just got to get the puzzle pieces together early on, and we’ll be able to do it I think.”
The Lady Panthers finished last season with 16 wins, which included a perfect 8-0 mark in conference. Postseason play didn’t encompass the same type of success, but that wasn’t due to a lack of physical ability.
AC believes its struggles in postseason play had to do with mental fortitude and the unfamiliarity of sporting a proverbial target on its back.
“Going into regionals it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’ve won a lot of games, this is crazy, we’ve never done this before,’” Klaahsen said. “It was huge shock to all of us, and we just didn’t have the mental strength to get to where we needed to get to at that time.”
If the Lady Panthers can remedy the mental portion of the game, another early exit at the region tournament appears unlikely. The journey to that point begins Friday against Douglas’ junior varsity squad.
The Panthers will take on Cheyenne East’s JV team Friday in Upton. While AC’s boys team didn’t see nearly as much success as the girls team, it also found the mental side of the game tough at times.
“It was not easy,” AC’s Tanner Klatt said. “You got to work through it. At times we definitely got down, especially as a team, but we kind of worked together and got ourselves back to reality.”
Klatt will return to the starting lineup with Mason Beam and Colin Malli. The Panthers are only a couple years removed from a state tournament appearance and while last season didn’t go well — only winning three of 21 games and zero in conference — AC hopes its experience and multiple veteran players experience a more enjoyable and successful 2018-19.