DENVER — Pueblo South had battled back all game. What was yet another comeback in the final seconds of regulation?
The Colts, seeded No. 12, hit a layup at the buzzer to send the game to overtime, and then Maya Austin led them to a 74-62 win over Mesa Ridge in the Class 4A girls basketball semifinals. The win earns Pueblo South a return trip to the championship game, scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday.
"Seriously," Pueblo South coach Shannan Lane said of the comebacks as she fought back tears. "We definitely did not step up on the floor and were not ready to go down 9-0, it wasn't the game plan.
"These girls just fought back and they played so hard," Lane added. "Each one contributed, they did what I asked them to do, and I'm just so blessed."
Austin hit 11 free throws in the overtime period, and finished with a career-high 34 points. Gabi Lucero added 22 points for the Colts, along with 12 rebounds.
Pueblo South rallied from down 9-0 in the first quarter, and down 47-42 in the fourth. After Mesa Ridge went up by five with five minutes to play, the Colts used a 13-3 run to take a 55-50 lead. At that point, 2:44 remained.
But Mesa Ridge kept fighting, cutting the lead to 57-56 with just 1:11 to play. The Grizzlies went up 58-57 on Chloe Welch's end-to-end layup with 29 seconds left, and Ashley Bowen added a free-throw to make it 59-57.
Then, just before time expired in regulation, Austin hit a layup to send the game to overtime, tied at 59.
In that overtime, Pueblo South outscored Mesa Ridge 15-3. Austin had 11 of those points.
Mesa Ridge dashed out to an early 9-0 lead in the first quarter, but Pueblo South battled back to tie the game at 16 with 1:16 to play in the frame. And though the Grizzlies emerged with a 20-18 lead after the first, Pueblo South had erased the huge margin.
The back-and-forth battle continued in the second quarter, with Mesa Ridge taking a 32-30 lead at the break. The game featured nine ties or lead changes to that point.
Both teams shot well in the first half: Mesa Ridge hit 12-of-27 shots (44 percent), and Pueblo South made 14-of-29 (48 percent).
Each squad was led by their star. Mesa Ridge's Welch had a double-double at halftime with 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Lucero of Pueblo South led all scorers with 14 points.
Both girls were outstanding all game, along with Austin's heroics. Welch, a senior, finished with 29 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. She fouled out in overtime.
Bowen had 15 points and nine rebounds for Mesa Ridge.