photo - Doherty coach Patrick McKiernan - The Doherty Spartans fell to Grandview 88-46 in their girls' basketball quarterfinal game Friday, March 3, 2017 at the Denver Colisium. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
Doherty coach Patrick McKiernan - The Doherty Spartans fell to Grandview 88-46 in their girls' basketball quarterfinal game Friday, March 3, 2017 at the Denver Colisium. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

For six years, Pat McKiernan regretted it.

In his first year as varsity coach, McKiernan led the Spartans to the quarterfinals in 2012. After the win in the third round that advanced the Spartans, McKiernan's brother-in-law asked him a question.

"He asked me if we cut down the nets," McKiernan said, "And I was so upset that we didn't do it, and I forgot to do it."

This year, for the first time since 2012, McKiernan, The Gazette's Big Schools Girls' Basketball Coach of the Year, led the Spartans back to the quarterfinals, as Doherty won 24 games with just two losses and a perfect record in league.

This time, McKiernan didn't forget. The Spartans defeated Fairview to earn a trip to the quarterfinals, which also happened to be McKiernan's 100th win, and each player left with a piece of the net.

"It's a special thing," McKiernan said. "Those kids get to get up there and they cut that down and they take a piece of it, and it's something that they will be able to talk about for years and years from now."

The Spartans' dominant season ended after falling to Grandview in the quarterfinals, but the loss told McKiernan just how special this year's team was.

"I was a little upset at that Grandview game at how our girls were just so emotional, but it dawned on me later that evening that they went into that (game) 110 percent believing that they could win," McKiernan said. "I think teams that I've had in the past would have been just happy to be there.

"Our girls were devastated, and it showed me that they truly believed that they could win and it was really a very proud moment for me."

The Spartans will lose three captains next year, including the two leading scorers in Kalani Poloa and Aubriana Noti, who also led the team in rebounds. Replacing them won't be easy but McKiernan is confident that the Spartans can make another deep playoff run.

"Absolutely. I 100 percent believe we can," McKiernan said. "Out of the 15 kids that were in the rotation for the playoffs, we only lose three of them, so we've got 12 returning varsity kids. We've just got to step up. The other kids that weren't expected to score as much are just going to be expected to step up and score more."