LAKEWOOD — Lakewood's girls basketball team advanced to its second straight Class 5A Great 8 Tuesday night in theatrical fashion.
Despite an enormous effort by Grandview sophomore Michaela Onyenwere (43 points and a few dozen rebounds) in the Sweet 16 game at Lakewood High School, the Tigers took an 86-83 victory.
“You can’t stop her (Onyenwere). She is amazing,” Lakewood coach Chris Poisson said. “We were hoping to contain her a little, but that didn’t happen. I knew she couldn’t quite beat us by herself.”
Poisson was right. The Tigers (20-5 overall) built a 17-point lead with five minutes to play in the fourth quarter. However, led by Onyenwere’s 18-point final quarter, the Wolves (20-5) actually took an 81-80 lead with 1:10 left.
The lead didn’t last long. Lakewood was able to break Grandview’s press after Onyenwere’s putback. Junior Mackenzie Forrest’s layup with 55 seconds gave the lead back to Lakewood for good.
Forrest sat most of the third quarter and a good portion of the fourth quarter with four fouls. She scored seven of her 11 points in the final five minutes of the game.
Two free throws by Forrest with 5.9 seconds remain pretty much sealed the victory.
“We are finally making our free throws,” Forrest said. “It’s a good time to start making them.”
While Onyenwere carried Grandview, Lakewood junior McKenna Bishop did much of the heavy lifting for the Tigers. Bishop finished with a season-high 35 points.
“She (Bishop) was amazing, but (Grandview) wouldn’t stop her,” Poisson said. “If we got past the pressure of their defense we knew we were golden attacking the rim.”
Bishop was masterful under the basket and was a solid 9-for-11 from the free-throw line.
“They have Michaela (Onyenwere) and she is a great player. With the help of my teammates I was able to put up 35 (points),” Bishop said. “Ball movement was key. They do a run and jump defense so when you dribble the ball two girls come at you. You have an open look somewhere.”
Lakewood juniors Anissa Barela (13 points) and Madeline Miller (10 points) both made big 3-pointers in the final quarter. Junior Madeleine Coughlin finished with just two points, but those were the form of two three throws with 37 seconds left that gave the Tigers an 84-81 lead.
“Everybody has to step up. If we are in foul trouble we need to count on other people,” Coughlin said about having Forrest, Miller and freshman Kira Emsbo all foul out. “We can’t just count on our starting five.”
Freshman Camilla Emsbo also finished in double-figures for the Tigers with 10 points.
Grandview sophomore Lenzi Hudson had 18 points. Her 3-pointer with 1:45 left in the fourth quarter trimmed Lakewood’s lead to 80-79.
“Look how many clutch plays were made by both teams. It was a heck of a game. Grandview is a heck of a team,” Poisson said. “I’m just proud I get to have this moment with my team.”
The moment will have to be cherished quickly. Lakewood moves on to the Great 8 where it will face Broomfield on Friday at the Denver Coliseum.
Broomfield (23-2) was the 4A state runner-up last season before moving up a classification to 5A this year. The Eagles, top seed in the Rhonda Blanford-Green Region, eliminated Pine Creek from the state tournament Tuesday night with a 20-point victory in Broomfield.
The Eagles are hoping to send longtime coach Mike Croell out with another state championship. Croell has announced he is retiring after this season.
“Mike is an incredible coach. We are good friends,” Poisson said. “We’ve got to battle a lot of emotion with Broomfield. They want to win this.”
Another 5A Jeffco team will be joining Lakewood down at the Coliseum. Ralston Valley upset Rampart in Colorado Springs on Tuesday night to give Jeffco a pair of state quarterfinalist for the second straight year.
“Nice,” Poisson said after being told Ralston Valley had won. “We (5A Jeffco) got two in the Elite 8. Congrats to Ralston Valley. I’m glad their there too.”