Mesa Ridge girls basketball claims first-ever state title in any sport

Mesa Ridge Broomfield girls basketball

More photos. (Matt Mathewes/MVPSportsPics.com)

BOULDER -- Mesa Ridge made history Saturday afternoon at the Coors Event Center in Boulder.

A 45-41 victory for the Grizzlies over Broomfield in the Class 4A girls basketball championship game gave the Colorado Springs school its first team state championship in school history. It was also the first time Mesa Ridge even played in a state title game in any sport.

“Our girls made quite a statement here today,” said Mesa Ridge coach Jeff Beatty, who sported an all-purple suit on the sideline for the Grizzlies. “You can come in once and take care of business. All the hard work they put in paid off.”

Defense was the driving factor in Mesa Ridge upsetting the favored Eagles. Broomfield shot just 15-for-53 (28.3 percent) from the field and also struggled at the free-throw line making just 8 of 19.

Broomfield’s defense actually kept the Eagles in the game. Mesa Ridge was forced into 22 turnovers, including 14 in the first half.

Mesa Ridge Broomfield girls basketball

More photos. (Matt Mathewes/MVPSportsPics.com)

“We’ve never had 22 turnovers before, but we overcame that,” Mesa Ridge senior Samantha Rudd said. “We made up for that with our defense. Defense wins championship and we played great defense today.”

Rudd was able to jumpstart the Grizzlies’ struggling offense in the third quarter. The 6-foot-1 senior scored 11 points in the span of four minutes during the third quarter.

After locked in a 14-14 tie at halftime, Mesa Ridge’s run opened up a 31-22 lead with two minutes to go in the third quarter.

“I had to come out and help my team. I wasn’t doing anything,” said Rudd, who finished with 11 points and fouled out late in the fourth quarter. “We are a second-half team and we came out and played like we always do in the second half. It was great.”

After losing in the 4A semifinals last season in overtime to eventual champion Pueblo South, the Eagles refused to fold against Mesa Ridge. Broomfield tied the game at 33-33 with 2:50 left in the fourth quarter on a 3-point play by sophomore Brenna Chase.

However, Mesa Ridge broke Broomfield’s full-court press on back-to-back possessions. Layups by sophomore Kylee Shook and senior Tiffani Jackson put the Grizzlies up for good.

“They were so focused on trying trap us there way no safety,” Mesa Ridge senior Gabby Purnell said. “We just threw the ball deep and finished.”

Another breakaway layup by Purnell with 43 seconds left put the Grizzlies up 41-35. Mesa Ridge made 4-of-6 free throws in the final seconds to keep Broomfield at bay.

“It was a very good team win,” Beatty said. “To do it defensively and share the ball the way we did is even more special for them.”

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

More photos. (Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

Shook led all scores with 14 points and also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds. The 6-foot-4 sophomore atoned for Thursday’s semifinal game where she was just 1-for-7 shooting for two points.

“These last few games she (Shook) hasn’t come out as strong as she usually does, but today she showed us she was ready to play and came out strong,” Rudd said. “She really helped us get going in the beginning.”

Shook had eight points in the first half and altered several Broomfield shots on the defensive end.

“Shook had a sophomore-type game Thursday night,” Beatty said. “Tonight she came out and flat out took care of business.”

After dominating Class 4A by winning five straight 4A hoops titles from 2007 to 2011, Broomfield had to settle for a runner-up finish.

“I don’t think we choked or anything like that,” Broomfield coach Mike Croell said. “We had good looks at the basket. A couple of those shots -- can’t believe they didn’t stay down. Very, very frustrating.”

The Eagles will elevate to the 5A classification next basketball season and play in the Front Range League.

“It was just one of those nights were we ran into a very, very tough team that played great defense,” Croell said. “They had a great game plan. We picked a bad night to go cold (shooting).”

Broomfield junior Callie Kaiser was the lone Eagle to reach double-digit points with 10. Senior Bri Wilbur and junior Nichole Lehrer each scored nine in the first loss of the season for the Eagles (27-1 record).

Mesa Ridge (28-0) completed its undefeated season.

“That’s what happens when you have two teams undefeated,” Croell said. “Unfortunately, one team is going to go home not happy.”