AURORA | Waiting is the hardest part, the Regis Jesuit girls basketball team has earned the rest.
On Monday, coach Carl Mattei’s Raiders — the prohibitive favorites to hoist a second consecutive Class 5A state championship trophy this upcoming weekend — received a prestigious invitation to the sixth annual DICK’S Sporting Goods High School National Tournament in New York City.
The tournament is scheduled to be played April 3-5 with the top four girls teams in the country according to USA Today’s Super 25 rankings — which includes Regis Jesuit in the No. 4 spot — and the top eight boys teams. The championship games for boys and girls are slated for April 5 at NYC’s iconic Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks, and carried live nationally on ESPN.
“These kids have worked so hard; I was praying for an invitation and I got an email at 9:30 a.m. this morning saying they wanted to invite us,” said a jubilant Mattei. “What an inspiration for these kids and others in Colorado. Look at what can happen if you work hard and play together.”
But Regis Jesuit’s participation in the tournament — which would be all expenses-paid for 15 players and coaches — is not a slam dunk. The Colorado High School Activities Association, the state’s governing body, needs to give final approval. Because the tournament would put the Raiders potentially in conflict with some CHSAA bylaws, a waiver is likely needed for Regis Jesuit to participate.
Mattei said he expected to hear from CHSAA by noon on Tuesday as to if the Raiders would be able to make the trip.
Regis Jesuit — which plays Poudre in the 5A semifinals at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Coors Events Center in Boulder — sits behind three teams in the current USA Today rankings: 1. Blackman (Tenn.), 2. Mater Dei (Calif.) and 3. Incarnate Word Academy (Mo.). The Raiders have already played two of those teams — Mater Dei and Incarnate Word — in separate traveling trips this season.
Also Monday, three Raiders — seniors Diani Akigbogun, Justine Hall and Anna Ptasinski — were selected for The Show all-star game to be played April 12 at the Pepsi Center in Denver. At a press conference, the players expressed hope they would be able to travel to play in New York.
Interestingly enough, another player with Regis Jesuit ties — Josh Perkins — could be playing in the boys portion of the DICK’s national tournament.
Perkins played three seasons for the Regis Jesuit boys basketball team before deciding to transfer to Huntington Prep in West Virginia for his senior season. The Gonzaga signee is part of a Huntington Prep team ranked No. 5 in the USA Today Super 25 rankings.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel.