Madison Hema skipped playing with her club basketball team in the summer.
She instead went to New Zealand and Belarus for a few weeks, but it wasn’t a vacation.
She went overseas to play basketball.
Hema, a 6-foot-2 senior at Castle View, was a member of New Zealand’s U17 women’s team that finished 12th in the FIBA World Cup tournament which was held July 21-29 in Minsk, Belarus.
“It took her a little bit,” said Castle View coach and Madison’s father Matt Hema. “The first couple games she was pretty nervous. After that she kind of realized that she plays against good girls every day in the U.S. in club, high school or wherever.”
Hema, who has signed to play at Washburn (Kansas), is a dual citizen of both New Zealand and the United States. Her dad was born and raised in New Zealand before moving to the United States 24 years ago.
In seven World Cup games, she averaged 9.1 minutes of playing time, 1.1 points, 1.6 rebounds and 0.3 assists. She started to develop more perimeter shots and returned home a more versatile player who would attempt 3-point field goals.
“She understood the competition level was top-notch,” said Matt Hema. “She wasn’t that far away from those teams and players and what they looked like. She could go out and still be productive.”
Madison Hema has been limited in Castle View’s practice sessions because of an ankle injury, but the Sabercats were ranked ninth in the preseason CHSAANow.com preseason Class 5A poll that was released Nov. 19.
Coaches always say teams are different from year to year, so there’s no doubt most of the first rankings of the season are based on last year’s teams.
In the past, Castle View has been a team that comes on strong toward the end of the season, and this campaign should be no different.
“We have eight seniors on the team and seniors show more maturity and leadership,” said coach Hema. “We have one of the toughest schedules in the state.
“We play Grandview and of course Regis Jesuit and Highlands Ranch. We play Fossil Ridge, Valor, Horizon and Columbine.”
Six of those teams were ranked in the Top 10 of the initial poll.
Area teams were sprinkled all over the girls polls.
Highlands Ranch was No. 3 in the 5A girls poll behind Grandview, which was top-ranked. Horizon was fourth, Cherry Creek sixth, Ralston Valley was seventh, Lakewood eighth, Castle View ninth and Valor Christian 10th.
Golden was 10th in the preseason 4A girls rankings. Lutheran was sixth in the 3A poll and Faith Christian 10th.
In the boys Class 5A ratings, Chaparral was second behind top-ranked Grandview. ThunderRidge was third. D’Evelyn was seventh in the 4A poll and Lutheran was the third-ranked 3A team.
Valor Christian, last season’s runner-up to state champion Regis Jesuit, was second behind the Raiders in the hockey ratings. Chaparral was fourth, Cherry Creek sixth, Ralston Valley eighth and Standley Lake ninth.
National championship on tap
The CHSAA cross country season wrapped up last month but athletes are still competing.
Mountain Vista’s girls team on Nov. 17 won the Nike Southwest regional cross country championship in Casa Grande, Arizona, and qualified for the national meet to be held Dec. 1 in Portland, Oregon.
Sarah O’Sullivan led the charge for Vista with an eighth-place finish with a time of 17:32.2.
The first- and second-place teams and the top five individuals not on those teams qualify to run in the nationals.
Cherry Creek’s Riley Stewart was seventh in the girls 5,000-meter race but the leading six runners were unaffiliated.
Valor Christian’s Cole Sprout, the two-time Colorado state champion, won the boys race with a time of 14:39.1 to edge Mountain Vista’s Easton Allred, who turned in a 14:41.4 clocking. Both runners qualified for the nationals. Vista’s boys team was third at the regionals and was waiting to see it the team could get an at-large invitation to the national meet.
Jim Benton is a sports writer for Colorado Community Media. He has been covering sports in the Denver area since 1968. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 303-566-4083.
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