With many first-time varsity players, the Ponderosa boys basketball team’s No. 11 seed can be taken as an accomplishment.
Ponderosa was placed in the Glenn Wilson Region of the Class 5A state championship playoffs, drawing a first-round game against No. 6 Standley Lake. At one point in the season, the Mustangs were ranked as high as 24th in Class 5A, which the team hasn’t seen since the early 1990s.
“Our 11th seeding for the state tournament is a reflection of our young varsity team, which left five wins on the table this season,” Ponderosa coach Mike Gibbs said. “No excuses with many of my players participating at the varsity level for the first time in the toughest conference in the state, it was a challenge for us.”
Gibbs said the team was happy to return to the playoffs for the second time since he took over the program as head coach. As for the team’s improvement, especially this season, their seed in the playoffs only provide a “nice feeling inside,” but that’s about it. The team still has to perform, he said.
Unfortunately for Ponderosa, the team was eliminated from the playoffs by Standley Lake Feb. 21 in Westminster 49-39.
Gibbs said Ponderosa has possessed the ability to beat any team any given night with the right mental toughness. This season, the Mustangs battled two Top 5 programs in Chaparral and ThunderRidge in Continental League action down to the last minute with an opportunity to win both games. Ponderosa has shown itself to be a very dangerous team in those occasions.
“Then, we laid an egg against some lesser competition all due to a lack of focus,” the coach said. “Teenagers. You have to love ’em.
“Ponderosa players control our playoff results, not our opponent.”
As a whole, from top to bottom, Ponderosa has seen tremendous success and improvement in its program during a time when many in its community did not expect the Mustangs to do well, let alone make the playoffs again, Gibbs said.
Ponderosa boys hoops is excited about its future and looking for more success next year with some new additions to its junior varsity and varsity rosters.
Gibbs said the school’s enrollment being down has actually helped his program become lean and mean.
“Our players are playing for each other and with a little chip to on their shoulders,” the coach said. “We made the playoffs with a group of players that are inexperienced and received on-the-job training during the season. We have one playing basketball for the first time ever as a junior, [and he] has averaged close to a double-double the last four out of five games.”
Ponderosa came to the playoffs with an 11-12 overall record and only three players on its roster with playoffs experience. The team came to the season with three goals: improve basketball skills while winning more games, make the 5A playoffs and win the state championship.
Ponderosa accomplished two of those three goals.