LOVELAND – The Fleming boys basketball team felt they’d earned this one.
After coming up an excruciating one point short in last year’s Class 1A state championship game, the Wildcats weren’t about to let it happen again.
Fleming jumped out to an early lead, then held off a furious Shining Mountain comeback to take the 1A state title 58-53.
The Wildcats never trailed, and with some hot outside shooting by Jason King, led by as many as 13 in the first half.
King hit four 3-pointers en route to 17 first-half points.
Having come up just short last year gave him the fuel he needed Saturday.
“It was motivation for us all year,” he said of the title game lost last season.
The Wildcats led by 10 at halftime. Then Shining Mountain’s Gray Hill went to work. He scored 14 of his game-high 26 points in the third quarter as the Lions inched back to within five.
The Lions got 3-pointers from three different players during a 2 ½-minute stretch in the fourth to pull to within 50-48.
Fleming’s Alex Vandenbark answered with a 3-pointer of his own that swung the momentum back in favor of the Wildcats.
“I hadn’t been shooting well,” Vandenbark said. “I got the ball in the corner; I was open. I knew one was bound to go in.”
The Lions, forced to shoot 3s, couldn’t convert, and three Darian Wilkening free throws sealed the deal for Fleming.
“This year it was unfinished business,” Vandenbark said.
“All the hard work (in the off-season) – it all paid off,” said King, who finished with 21 points.
Wildcats coach Thomas Hessler said Shining Mountain’s rally had him concerned.
“You always worry about those games,” he said. The loss in 2015 “made them hungry.”
This is Hessler’s third season as Wildcats coach, but he deflected the credit.
“I’m just happy for the kids,” he said. “I just get to ride the bus with them.”
Last year’s state champion, Holly, took third place with a 61-46 win over Ouray. Yaniel Vidal’s 20 points paced the Wildcats.
Rocky Mountain Lutheran defeated Kit Carson 52-43 to take the consolation title behind 22 points from Jordan Cothran.