ARVADA — If Friday night was any indication, it’s going to be a competitive and entertaining chase to the Class 5A girls basketball state trophy.
Defending state champion Grandview, also ranked No. 1 in the CHSAANow.com 5A girls preseason poll, never trailed Friday night in its season opener on the road against No. 6 Ralston Valley. However, the Wolves needed a 3-pointer at the buzzer by the Mustangs to just miss its mark for Grandview to hang on to a 48-45 victory.
“It was stressful toward the end,” said Grandview junior Alisha Davis, who scored a team-high 11 points for the Wolves before fouling out with 2:57 left in the fourth quarter. “We just have to make sure we do the little things. Make sure we box out, communication on the floor, finish layups and make free throws. We’ll be fine.”
Grandview held a double-digit lead midway through the third quarter, but the Wolves never could put Ralston Valley away. The Wolves were only 9-for-20 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
Senior Leilah Vigil poured in 10 points for Grandview before fouling out with 33 seconds left. Freshman Addison O’Grady grabbed a key offensive rebound off a missed free throw in the final seconds on her way to 9 points.
“It was a good win for us for sure, but we’ve got a lot to work on,” Grandview coach Josh Ulitzky said. “Ralston Valley is a really good team. It’s a great way to start the season.”
It was finally time for Delaynie Byrne to begin her basketball career at Ralston Valley. Byrne had to sit her entire junior year after transferring from Broomfield High School.
She has already signed to continue her basketball career at the University of Minnesota. As a sophomore at Broomfield, she averaged 13.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
“Just to get out with this team and compete against the reigning state champions is a great opportunity,” said Byrne, who admitted she was nervous playing in her first game for the Mustangs. “It’s good to be back.”
After a quiet first half, Bryne poured in a game-high 26 points. The 6-foot-3 forward buried a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter and drove strong to the basket to make a trio of 3-point plays on her way to 22 points in the second half.
“She (Bryne) basically took over,” Ralston Valley coach Jeff Gomer said of the second half charge. “She played us back into the game, but that is what you have to have from her. We have very little experience and until those other kids grow she is going to have to carry a big load.”
The Mustangs had a 86-19 mark over the last four seasons, but they graduated four starters last year’s team that advance to the state quarterfinals. The biggest loss was four-year starting point guard Ashley Van Sickle, who is now playing at Montana State University.
“I was worried about this group’s ability to be physical and tough. How would we react,” Gomer said. “I learned we can do that. I think we were a little bit better than people expected us to be.”
Ralston Valley freshman guard Sydney Bevington was a bright spot with 11 points in her prep opener.
“Despite the loss, we take a lot of confidence moving forward,” Bryne said. “I think we are going to turn some heads for sure.”
Ralston Valley’s next game is 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5, against Palmer in the opening round of the Fairview Festival Tournament in Boulder.
The defending state champions also plays next Tuesday. The Wolves have their home opener against Fossil Ridge. Grandview hasn’t lost to a Colorado team since the 5A state semifinal loss to ThunderRidge in 2016.
Grandview had a 97-10 record over the past four seasons with one of its best players ever in the program’s history leading the way. Michaela Onyenwere, a freshman playing at UCLA, finished her prep career with 2,290 points (21.8 per game) and 1,061 rebounds (10.1 rebounds per game).
“We know people would doubt us in the beginning as soon as we lost Michaela,” Davis said. “We just have to make sure we stay focused.”