GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado - Reaching the semifinals of the Class 4A State Championships as members of the Glenwood Springs High School girls basketball team was a big thing for Sharaya and Katrina Selsor.
Reaching the Division II Elite Eight as members of Colorado Mesa University's women's basketball team ranks even higher.
"Obviously, at that point, that was the biggest stage that we had played on," Sharaya said. "This, obviously, is sweeter."
The Selsor sisters have had a long habit of excelling on the basketball courts together. Not long after they learned to shoot their first layups together, they starred for the Demons during their deep playoff runs in 2007 and 2008. And now, not terribly long after they helped the Demons earn their best state finish in nearly three decades, they're leading the Mavericks in what is already the best season in the program's history.
They were reunited on the basketball court this season after a one-year hiatus, as Sharaya returned to the team following the birth of her daughter, Carter Laray Herl, now 14 months old. Her return might have been the piece of the puzzle the Mavs were missing, as Mesa subsequently won the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference title and, last Monday, took home the South Central Regional championship with a 69-65 victory over MIdwestern State (Texas) at Brownson Arena.
There's a 31-1 overall record that goes along with that. Granted, the Mavs have plenty of firepower other than the Selsor sisters. The biggest is Kelsey Sigl, who was named a Division II All-American last week and, with 595 total points scored, is 10 points away from breaking the school's single-season scoring record.
What the Selsors bring, however, goes beyond the stat sheet.
"They're competitive by nature," first-year Mesa coach Taylor Wagner said. "They try to be the best at everything they do. They say, 'I'm going to be the best in sprints,' or 'I'm going to be the best in this shooting drill.' And as a coach, you love it, because what they do makes the whole team better."
Glenwood, under former Demons coach Bryan Derby, went 20-5 in 2007 on its way to reaching the 4A Final Four at the Coors Events Center in Boulder. There they faced Harrison, which beat Glenwood 57-41. The finish was the best for the Demons since 1980, when the Glenwood girls finished third at the AA level.
The Demons were successful again the next season, finishing 21-4 after losing to eventual state champion Broomfield 69-47 in the 4A Great Eight. The 5-foot-10 Sharaya, who had already signed to play for Metro State in Denver, finished the season averaging 22.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, shooting 54 percent from the field and 45 percent from beyond the 3-point line.
Sharaya was named the 4A Western Slope League's Co-Player of the Year with Angie Charchalis of Moffat County. Katrina, then a 5-foot-11 junior who later had a small growth spurt and is now 6-1, was named to the first team.
Katrina shined during her senior season with Glenwood. Playing multiple positions, she averaged 17.1 points, nine rebounds and close to six assists per game in her senior season, helping her earn the league's outright Player of the Year award and helping the Demons win their first outright league title since 1998.
And it wasn't necessarily the skill level the Selsor sisters had that helped them excel. Their work ethic is what helped them, and their team, be successful.
"They were just competitive kids who wanted to win," Derby recalled about coaching them. "They were never there for their own individual accomplishments. They were willing to take all 10 of their teammates and make them all better.
"Talentwise, I don't know if they were that much better than everyone else," Derby continued. "They just thought differently than everyone else. They just knew how to win and did what it took. I just love those kids to death. Those two were something special."
Sharaya went on to play at Metro, where she averaged 10.8 points and four rebounds per game as a freshman for the Roadrunners. Metro was a great program, she said, but the campus and college life at the school didn't fit her.
Needing a change and some familiarity, she transferred to Mesa, where she had to sit during her first year there. NCAA rules state that a player is ineligible to play in games unless the school from which that player transferred grants their release, so Sharaya had to redshirt and play on the practice squad in her first year with the Mavs.
Katrina ended up going to Colorado State University-Pueblo, where she was named the RMAC's Freshman of the Year after averaging 11.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.
Katrina eventually made the trip back to the Western Slope for multiple reasons. First, Roger Walters, who was Mesa's coach at the time and a friend of the family, would be their coach. The second and most important reason, however, was to be closer to family. Their father, John, had just been diagnosed with a kidney disease, and traveling to Pueblo to watch Katrina play became very difficult.
Then another kink was thrown in. After Sharaya and Katrina's first year playing together again, Sharaya became pregnant with Carter. She was offered a medical redshirt, but opted not to play basketball anymore and moved with Carter's father to Kansas.
And Sharaya's absence showed.
"We definitely struggled," Katrina said of the Mavs, who finished 13-14 overall in the 2011-12 season. "She was definitely missed. She was definitely the missing link, and we would have definitely benefitted more with her on the team. And for me personally, not only with basketball, but with everything in general, it really felt like something was missing."
Sharaya, after having Carter and staying away from the game for a year, missed basketball and her teammates too much. So not long after Wagner took over Mesa's head coaching duties, Sharaya moved back to rejoin her team for her junior year of eligibility.
Katrina, who is playing in her senior year while her older sister is a junior, couldn't have been happier.
"She brings a lot," Katrina said. "She's definitely our vocal leader, and this year she's our best outside shooter and one of our best defenders.
"On top of that, we do everything together," she said, smiling.
No doubt, Sharaya's team-high 40.8 percent shooting average from beyond the arc has been a big lift for Mesa. She's averaging 12.6 points per game - good for third on the team - and leads the team in minutes played. She's also staunch defensively, as Wagner routinely matches her up against whomever he feels is the opposing team's best player.
Katrina averages 14.8 points per game - good for second on the team - and averages a team-high 8.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists. She's physical underneath the basket on defense and on offense, as evidenced by her team-high 194 foul shots, of which she's made 80.9 percent.
Both have played a big role for the Mavs, who were ranked No. 4 in the national polls headed into the Division II tournament. They'll play Dowling (N.Y.) College at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in the national quarterfinals at Bill Greehey Arena in San Antonio. The game will be streamed online at www.NCAA.com.
And regardless of how Mesa finishes, the Selsor sisters have plenty of memories of their last competitive season on the basketball court together.
"This season is much more special than it was in high school because I didn't think she would come back and play," Katrina said of Sharaya. "I always had that hope, and I knew in the back of my mind whe wasn't ready to let that go yet. But there was that fear."
"The biggest thing for me is getting to do it with my sister," Sharaya said. "You know, getting to play those last two games and, after hugging her, us both hugging my daughter and getting to do the thing I love with the people I love the most. It's been really special."