AURORA | Carl Mattei tells Francesca Belibi that a dunk is just another shot.
While technically true, what the Regis Jesuit sophomore accomplished in Friday night’s victory over visiting Grand Junction reverberated around the state.
In the first half of the Raiders’ 78-23 win over the Tigers, the 6-foot Belibi became the first know girls basketball player in Colorado history to dunk in a game when she threw one down 1-handed on a breakaway, to the shock and awe of those in attendance — including herself.
“I didn’t expect it to be honest with you,” said Belibi, who finished with a game-high 21 points.
“I don’t know, I just did it,” she added. “I didn’t realize it went in until I heard the crowd and heard the snap (of the rim). Then I definitely heard my teammates. I think the crowd definitely understands the importance behind it — the first girl to dunk — but it was completely unexpected.
“Girls don’t dunk.”
But Belibi — just 15 years old and still relatively new to the game of basketball — did dunk and she did it with 3 minutes left in the first quarter as her team pushed out to a significant lead.Regis Jesuit trapped a Grand Junction ballhandler near center court and her pass got tipped into the hands of Belibi, who took three dribbles, two steps and dunked with one hand.
Mattei had seen Belibi dunk with a tennis ball as a freshman and then do it for real in practice during the club season. But it finally happened in a game and the video clip when viral immediately after the game, going all the way to ESPN’s SportsCenter.
“It’s a shot, just like a 3-point shot, so I tell her if you want to try it, go for it,” Mattei said. “It was amazing, it was a real thrill. I had to call a time out, everyone was screaming. It’s just unseen.”
In a back hallway, assistant coach John Koslosky showed Belibi the video of the dunk and it made her jaw drop.
The Regis Jesuit locker room went crazy when Belibi came in following the game.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel