Three teams brought the attention of high school basketball fans across the state to Fort Collins last season.
A historic run saw three local teams make the Final Four with two — Fossil Ridge’s boys and girls squads — making the final before losing in their respective championship games.
The Fossil Ridge teams, along with the Poudre girls basketball team, are in different states of reloading and rebuilding.
Here’s a look at each team heading into the 2014-15 season.
Fossil Ridge (girls)
The SaberCats look best set up of the three to make another deep postseason run. Fossil Ridge graduated just two players from last season’s team and returns four starters.
That being said, the one starter who graduated leaves a big hole. Savannah Smith, now playing at the University of Northern Colorado, averaged 20 points per game.
Expect a group to replace her numbers, not just one player. Seniors Brooke Pemberton and Kellee Willer seem primed for big seasons and Sami Steffeck and Natalie Williams will have increased scoring roles. The X-factor is Savannah’s little sister, freshman Sophie Smith.
“I think we can get to the Final Four. We’re still striving to do that,” Willer said. “Savannah’s a huge loss, but I think we can make up her points. I think we’ll distribute the points more this year.”
The Impalas made the Class 5A semifinals and finished with a 21-6 record. They leaned on a “Big Three” of Myanne Hamm and the McDaniels twins, Ashley and McKenzie. All three have graduated, with Hamm playing at CSU now.
To stay as one of the top teams in the Front Range League, Poudre is relying on a new group to take over.
Cecilia Berkner, Anna Haugen and Myanne’s sister Madison will look to be the next generation of top performers.
“We had a “Big Three” before and now we have a new “Big Three,” coach Curtis Glesmann said. “They’re embracing that challenge. If summer is any indication all three will be able to step up and produce.”
Poudre was one of the top defensive teams in the state last season and will still be a threat in the FRL.
Fossil Ridge (boys)
An undefeated regular season carried into the playoffs where the SaberCats rolled all the way to the title game before being knocked off by Denver East.
Now it’s a restructure job for Fossil Ridge after graduating nine seniors. But coach Matt Johannsen is still expecting big things.
The SaberCats have a schedule loaded with great teams, including a Final Four rematch with Mountain Vista.
Johannsen feels many of his players would have gotten lots of minutes last season in most programs and are ready to step up.
“I learned a ton from those guys and they showed me how to be a great leader,” said Ryan Quaid, who is the top returning player after averaging 5.5 points and 3.6 rebounds a year ago. “We still have high expectations.”
Despite the losses, Fossil Ridge is one of the favorites in the FRL as Quaid, Andrew Semadeni and Braxton Bertolette will look to thrive in their expanded roles.
Follow sports reporter Kevin Lytle at twitter.com/Kevin_Lytle and at facebook.com/KevinSLytle.
Last season’s Final Four squads
Fossil Ridge: 27-1…Won FRL…Lost to Denver East in 5A title game…Graduated nine players, including top four scorers.
Fossil Ridge: 26-2…Won FRL…Lost to Regis Jesuit in 5A title game…Graduated two players, including leading scorer Savannah Smith.
Poudre: 21-6…Third in FRL…Lost to Regis Jesuit in 5A semifinals…Graduated three of top four scorers.