PUEBLO – Given a second bite at the proverbial apple, via a nearly identical foul call as what gave her the first chance to clinch the 2022 Colorado High School Coaches Association All-State Games’ girls’ basketball championship Saturday afternoon, June 11, Aurora-based 5A Vista PEAK Prep star Breanna Jefferson swished the front end of a 1-and-1 free-throw bonus.
With the scoreboard inside CSU-Pueblo’s Massari Arena reading 79-77, the final whistle blew as Jefferson, virtually unstoppable on repeated hard drives to the hoop during the second half, and team Red had reached the Elam-rules ‘target’ of 79 points, and had thus defeated Blue by two.
However, defeat didn’t come without dispute – less likely along the lines that Red, with Jefferson being a CSUP recruit, was favored by the referees, but realistically based on a widespread belief that during a rapid-fire exchange between the teams in the third quarter, a Blue basket – scored by 1A Briggsdale’s speedy Kylie Krise – wasn’t logged by the official scorer.
One which, after 4A Colorado Springs Sand Creek’s Riley Rodriguez knocked down a midrange jumper late in the fourth, shortly after Jefferson’s FT miss, would have given Blue a 79-78 come-from-behind victory.
And though independent scoresheets supported 2A Holyoke’s John Baumgartner, who skippered Blue in the two-day tournament and who was certain Krise had scored three two-point baskets – not two – during the third quarter, the outcome was upheld.
For Blue, 3A Bayfield’s Abby Tate was nonetheless pumped up.
“I will say I’m not exactly experienced in that situation because I haven’t been in that situation very much,” she said, a tongue-in-cheek smile recalling any number of times BHS had been blown out during her high school career. “Coach knew pretty much I hadn’t been in that situation, so I didn’t get as much playing time at the end. But it was still really fun; it got my heart rate up watching the girls fight through it!”
Holding a 16-13 lead after the opening 10-minute quarter, helped by six Krise points, Blue fell behind 35-28 at halftime after Red sharpshooter Mariah Hilliard (5A Highlands Ranch Valor Christian) netted three three-pointers and Kayedence Bruner (2A Oak Creek Soroco), one.
Hilliard cashed her fifth trey early after intermission, putting Red up 38-28 – about the only instance in the contest where one team clearly had the upper hand. Barely two minutes later though, Blue equalized at 38 when Rodriguez sank a triple. HHS’ Lauren Herman would bring Blue level again, 44-44, with a basket inside, and Tate knocked down a 16-footer, retying the score at 46, after being fed in the high post by Otis-area 1A Lone Star’s Alivia Weathers.
“I feel maybe I didn’t execute as well as I’d hoped,” said Tate, who scored four points in the previous day’s 78-73 win over ASG-Black, then four against Red. “But it was still fun … you’re just working your very hardest and keeping your head.”
Set to play at Concordia (Neb.) University, Weathers converted a three-point play for a later 51-50 lead, but Red went up 58-53 in the fourth quarter after Hilliard banked in a straight-on, half-court three.
And though Jefferson – showing Steel City locals what they’ll hope to see when she dons ThunderWolves attire – totaled 11 points in the fourth, giving her a game-high 25, Blue managed to hold Hilliard (20 points) scoreless down the stretch and stay in contention despite the Elam objective set with 3:44 remaining and Red leading 71-63.
The 3A La Junta’s Sierra Reisch went 4-4 from the charity stripe and Holyoke’s Kristin Vieselmeyer – another Concordia signee – was 3-4 and Weathers 1-1. All told, Blue made 22 of 28 free throws while Red hit 9 of 14, but Red drained 10 shots from behind the three-point arc while Blue booked just five.
Vieselmeyer (11 points) scooped in a reverse layup to bring Blue back to 78-75, but Weathers (12) was then called for the first of two fouls while defending Jefferson – leading to Jefferson’s action-ending free throw.
“To see the girls I played with fight through … a tough, tense situation,” Tate said, “was pretty cool.”
Reisch totaled seven points and Herman 10 for Blue, while Rodriguez tallied 15 and Krise an ‘official’ team-high 18.
Colorado Springs-based 4A The Classical Academy’s Brooka Jones (10) was the only other Red in double figures.
With her White team –routed 72-53 the previous day by Red – outscoring Black 40-20 during the second and third quarters to erase a 26-11 first-quarter deficit, 2A Ignacio’s Avaleena Nanaeto all but locked up third place with a three-pointer putting White one scratch away from an Elam goal of 72 points, established with White up 64-52.
White eventually prevailed 73-62, with Nanaeto totaling six points and Asia Caldon (2A Sanford) and Cora Schissler (3A Kersey Platte Valley) each registering a team-high 14 and PV’s Brooke Bunting 10.
“I felt like I got to play my position; I was really happy about that,” said Nanaeto, coached by 1A San Luis Centennial’s Jason Maestas and PV’s Tonya Schissler. “There were good coaches … who had good plays, and I liked their rotations.”
Metro State University-Denver recruit Mikylah Espinosa scored a game-high 19 points for Black, while 4A Greeley Northridge’s Seneya Martinez totaled 12 and Espinosa’s 4A Thornton Skyview teammate Alexa Peraza 11. 3A Pagosa Springs’ Trista Tully, who began the game with a close-range basket, finished with six points.
“I’m honored to be here with all these wonderful ladies that have worked to get here. Really, they’re all spectacular,” said Tully, who will start U.S. Air Force basic training in San Antonio, Texas.
Playing for the South in the CHSCA All-State Games’ football showdown Friday night, June 10, 2A Bayfield’s Isaac Ross plus 3A Durango’s William Knight and Jordan Stanley also were unable to pull out one last win as North prevailed 23-17 at CSUP’s ThunderBowl.
South reportedly trailed 13-3 in the second quarter after a Sullivan Moon (4A Colorado Springs Cheyenne Mountain) field goal, but North countered after halftime with a touchdown from 4A Erie’s Caleb Theisen and a field goal by 2A Eaton’s Jose Lopez to double their lead.
South managed to make the final margin respectable with touchdowns from Kahar Briggs (3A Colorado Springs Harrison) and Jian Aguilar (1A Florence). Ross quarterbacked South’s field-goal drive, as well as one of the two TD series.