GREELEY — Three was the magic number in a barn burner of a game between Holly and Kit Carson.
Holly was looking for a third win this season over Kit Carson. On Friday in the Class 1A Final 4 at the University of Northern Colorado’s Bank of Colorado Arena, a pair of free throws by sophomore forward Kobe Davis with 44 seconds left tied the game at 42 and forced overtime after a three-point miss by Kit.
Then, the game passed one overtime with neither team scoring. Holly’s Marshall Pierce had a look at three that fell short at the buzzer. In the second overtime, each team tallied two points, Brad Johnson had a two for Kit and Yaniel Vidal made both free throws, as the game went to a third overtime.
In triple overtime, Holly gained possession and stalled for the final few minutes with the contest still knotted at 44. Then, setting up a play out of a timeout, the Wildcats found Sigi Avalos open in the corner. The senior did the rest.
“We honestly just wanted to look for the best shot,” Avalos said. “We stalled for about three minutes, then coach called a play. We were hoping to hit the shot and we hit it.”
“A couple shots didn’t feel good, but that one did.”
Avalos’ game-winning trifecta earned Holly (24-0) the opportunity to play for a second state title in three years. In a grind of a game, with defenses forcing each team out of their comfort zones, the group in red and black was able to win three-of-three times this season over Kit Carson (18-6).
The 47-44 semifinals victory came one season after falling to Shining Mountain in the semis. Holly’s two other appearances in a boys basketball title game came in 2015, a 33-32 win over Fleming, and 1951, a Class B victory over Sanford. Holly has claimed 15 overall state championships in sports.
Yaniel Vidal was the high-point man for either side with 20, but he was mostly cold after halftime with only seven after the break. Vidal (20.9 points per game this season) was already the leading scorer for Holly as a sophomore for the title team. Avalos, who averages 11.9 points, has been a key piece for three years as well and contributed 15 points. Chandler Rushton chipped in eight.
When Kit was going offensively, runs were typically led by Jaxon Crawford (19 points) and Brad Johnson (13), the only two in double figures.
Holly will face Cheyenne Wells in the title game Saturday at 5:30 p.m at Budweiser Events Center in Loveland. Kit Carson will play Fleming in the third-place game.
— Colo. HS Basketball (@ColoHSHoops) March 11, 2017
(2) Cheyenne Wells 49, (6) Fleming 34
From 1953-55, Cheyenne Wells reached three consecutive Class B state title games in boys basketball. They lost to Fort Lupton the first season, then won back-to-back crowns over Fort Lupton and Palisade.
On Friday evening at the University of Northern Colorado’s Bank of Colorado Arena, the Tigers took out defending champion Fleming 49-34 in a stifling defensive effort in the 1A semifinals.
After all these years, if Cheyenne Wells defeats Holly on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, they will claim their first boys basketball state championship since 1955.
Talk about a monumental opportunity.
Against Fleming, the Tigers were relentless defensively against star guard Jaxon King. Last season’s 1A player of the year could barely find breathing room as Cheyenne Wells contested perimeter looks and drives throughout.
“Jaxon King is a great player,” senior Peyton Halde, a physical presence in the paint, said. “We just had to limit him as best we could. That was really the key to the game for us.”
King only scored three points the first three frames before tallying seven in the fourth quarter when the game was just about out of reach. For Fleming, after overcoming a stretch of six consecutive losses in the regular season to still become one of the four remaining teams in 1A, the Wildcats finally buckled. Cheyenne Wells knocked Fleming back early and applied pressure throughout.
The home crowd from Cheyenne Wells, making the over 200-mile drive from the eastern edge of Colorado, had plenty to cheer about in a game mostly controlled by the Tigers. Halde (12 points) and fellow senior Jaime Huerta (nine) led the way in the first quarter, but everyone who checked in contributed.
Quade Pelton (eight), Kendall Pelton (10) and Craig Smith (five) all helped in the scoring department as Cheyenne Wells held a 17-10 lead after the opening quarter. The Tigers rode a 26-20 halftime lead, but junior guard Matthew Tanner (19 points) kept Fleming within striking distance.
The only problem for the Wildcats was as soon as Fleming would garner momentum, Cheyenne Wells (22-2) would snatch it right back. The second-seeded Tigers pushed the lead to 34-23 going into the fourth and never let Fleming back in the game.
The last time Cheyenne Wells reached the state tournament, back in 2014 when they lost to eventual champion Hi-Plains in the Final Four, Kendall Pelton was a freshman already averaging over double-figures. He was named second team all-state as a junior. Peyton Halde had to bide his time just a touch longer.
“This was my first time playing here,” he said. “We made it my freshman year, but I wasn’t good enough yet to get in.”
Now the team is good enough to get into the final game. Cheyenne Wells lost at home to Holly 60-50 on February 9. Holly is perfect on the season with a 24-0 record. The only other time Cheyenne Wells has reached a boys hoops title game since 1955 was 2002 when Jefferson Academy won 2A.
Fleming (16-10), seeded sixth, will face Kit Carson in the third place game on Saturday.