Rancho players aren’t ignorant to the reputation of their high school.
They know what part of town they’re in, they know the school hasn’t had a state champion in 30 years and they know what other schools think of them.
They also know they’re one of the top girls basketball teams in the Sunrise Region.
The Rams open the region playoffs on Tuesday as the No. 2 seed from the Northeast League. They host Southeast League No. 3 seed Coronado at 6:30 p.m. in a rematch of last year’s first-round game.
“It’s us working hard and being what Rancho is supposed to be,” senior Kyndal Ricks said of the team’s success. “People always think that they can just come to Rancho and beat us and just leave, but we’ve shown them that it’s going to be a challenge for anyone that comes across our court.”
Ricks led the Rams with 16 points per game, more than anyone in the Sunrise except Liberty’s Dre’una Edwards, and helped them go 18-10 (7-1 in league), more wins than anyone in the region except Liberty.
The point guard added a point to her per game total, notched two more rebounds and slashed 1½ turnovers this season. She is a contender for the league’s player of the year and at the center of Rancho’s recent run to prominence.
“What impresses me most is everyone knows who she is now,” Rancho coach Ashley Vossen said. “Yet she still goes out and does her job, and she produces.”
Rancho beat league rival Canyon Springs on Jan. 18 for the first time since 2009. Its 18 victories were the most since the 2014 team’s 20 wins.
That’s all to say it’s a different team than the 13-15 group that snuck into the playoffs and blew a halftime lead in last year’s loss. This season, the Rams don’t want to just play spoiler, they want to make some noise.
“This team is more of a family than any of the past three years that I’ve been here, and that’s what’s helped us in all these games,” senior guard Lea Williams said. “I don’t have any doubts about this game.”
The last Rancho program to win a state championship was its football team in 1988, one that boasted future NFL wide receiver Mike Pritchard. The girls basketball team hasn’t won a state title since 1977.
It would be a colossal upset if Rancho were to win this year, or even win the Sunrise Region with powerhouses like Centennial and Liberty between the Rams and a trophy. But this year’s team knows it is different — and working to fight the perception people have of their school.
“It’s crazy to think that people have this reputation of Rancho, and they sometimes look past us,” Vossen said. “Our girls don’t want this season to be over. It’s Coronado, we’re coming from two different worlds, but basketball is what we have in common, and we’re going to go out and show what we’ve done all season.”
Class 4A region girls basketball tournament
Tuesday: Sunrise Region quarterfinals at host sites, 6:30 p.m.; Sunset Region quarterfinals at host sites, 6:30 p.m.
Thursday: Sunrise Region semifinals at Canyon Springs, 2 and 4 p.m.; Sunset Region semifinals at Legacy, 2 and 3:50 p.m.
Saturday: Sunrise Region final at Canyon Springs, 4 p.m.; Sunset Region final at Legacy, 4 p.m.