AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – The Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) may have taken away an opportunity for the Regis High School girls basketball team to go to a National Tournament in New York City but they have not taken away the team’s focus.
As the number three high school girls basketball team in the country, the Regis Raiders were invited to attend Dick’s Sporting Goods’ sixth annual High School National Tournament in New York City.
Unfortunately, CHSAA’s bylaws say that participation in this tournament would put the team over the limit of the number of games they can play per season.
Without a waiver, the Regis Raiders cannot attend the national tournament and since no waiver was granted, another team has been invited in their place.
Diani Akigbogen, a senior on the Regis Jesuit team, said this was devastating news but the team’s focus has been on another game entirely: the state championship.
“It’s sad that we weren’t able to finish the way we wanted to but it feels good knowing that we still have a chance to play in the state championship,” Akigbogen said. “We’re still going to keep fighting; we’re not going to give up.”
This will be the second year in a row that the Regis girls basketball team has made it to the state championship and with last year’s win, the girls hope to return as state champions once again.
“The first goal since the beginning of the season is to get to that state game and take it all again back-to-back,” said Kelsi Lidge, another senior on the team.
Although they will not make the trip to New York, Coach Carl Mattei said it was an honor to be invited to the national tournament.
“It’s a huge honor because all the hard work you put in isn’t just during the high school season, it’s the summer before and the spring before,” Mattei said. “It kind of shows that after everything they’ve done their hard work is paying off and people are recognizing it.”
Tammy Hall, the parent of another senior on the team, said the invitation was exciting because it showed that the Regis girls team was one of the top four teams in the country. She hopes the CHSAA will change their bylaws for future teams that may get this opportunity.
“It would just give some more opportunities for other Colorado players because coaches start seeing this as a place where girls basketball is being developed and good players are coming out of this state,” said Hall.
The skill on this team took years of hard work. The girls have been playing together for nearly eight years and Coach Mattei said the girls have formed a bond that keeps them going. This bond can be seen on the court and both the parents and the girls believe it helps their competitive edge.
“The thing about this team ever since they were little is they’ve always been competitors and winners,” Hall said. “They never give up and they never quit. They’re just always giving it their all and it brings success.”
Despite not going to the national tournament, the girls still see their high school basketball career as a successful one.
“We’ve worked so hard to build up what we have here and we’ve improved so much each year so I mean we’ve come a long way and when we’re all together and we’re all playing at our best level we really are a good team,” Akigbogen said.
The team, the coach and the parents were disappointed with CHSAA for not making an exception to their bylaws, but not going to New York did not hinder the girls’ focus and determination.
For these Regis Raiders, they will keep striving for this year’s state championship. Beyond that, the girls will continue to focus on the game they love: the game of basketball.
Written for cbsdenver.com by CBS4 Intern Melanie Towler