LOVELAND — After visits to the Class 1A state tournament the previous two years with no hardware to show for it, the Idalia girls basketball team had a different outlook this time.
This year, "We came with a purpose," junior wing player Reagan Shaffer said.
She and her teammates completed a 21-2 season by capturing the state title with a 59-50 victory over Sangre de Cristo.
The Wolves entered the tournament as the fourth seed. With most of the team having experienced a state tournament atmosphere, Idalia came into the tournament confident but relaxed.
The Wolves held the lead through most of the first half, but the Thunderbirds turned a five-point deficit into a five-point lead.
Idalia used free throw shooting, inclucing a pair from Susana Herrera with no time on the clock, to retake the lead 27-26 by halftime.
They maintained a slim edge through most of the third quarter
Despite foul trouble by a couple of key players, the Thunderbirds inched back to tie the game at 48 with just under three minutes remaining.
Idalia's Susana Herrera responded with a 3-pointer to give the Wolves the momentum again.
"She is a big-game player," Idalia coach Cory Zion said.
It was Shaffer playing a large role. In addition to her 19 points, she had five blocks, all in the first half, to take control in the lane, and pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds. She also handled Sangre de Cristo's full-court press.
"She can play all five positions," Zion said of the 5-10 Shaffer.
"We never came in with the mind-set that we weren't going to win," Shaffer said of knocking off the top seed, which came into the game with just one loss, to Trinidad, during the regular season.
Shaffer was joined for team-high scoring honors by Herrera. Jennay Terrell capped of a balanced scoring effort with 13.
The Wolves helped their cause by capitalizing on their free throw opportunities, converting 27.
Sangre de Cristo was led by point guard Karleigh Cooley, who had 14 points.
Four Idalia starters return next year for their senior seasons. Shaffer, for one, said the team won't rest on its laurels.
"It's back at it (during the offseason)," she vowed.
Kit Carson took the third-placed trophy with a 58-33 victory over Flagler. Norwood won the consolation title, defeating Plateau Valley for the third time this season, this time 34-27.