DENVER — When Manitou Springs and Lutheran met in early January, Manitou came away with a 55-43 victory. But on Saturday, with the Class 3A championship on the line, Lutheran took the trophy with a 52-44 win.
It was Lutheran's second championship in three seasons, the previous coming in 2014.
If not for a one-point loss to St. Mary's in late February, the Manitou Springs Mustangs would have finished with a perfect regular season. In their first title game appearance, their perfect postseason run was put to a halt by the Lutheran Lions.
"Last time we played them, we just weren't as prepared as we could have been. We were hungry for it time time, it was a game that we really wanted redemption for," said Lutheran senior Morgan Barone. "We practice shooting every day, and tonight each one of us was really feeling it. All the cards fell into place."
The Mustangs opened the game with a basket from senior Angala Jensen, who led her team with 15 points. From the opening shot, every basket was answered on each end of the court.
For nearly the entirety of the first quarter, there wasn't an unfinished possession from either team. Lutheran's Barone (13 points) hit the first of many threes of the game just a minute in, starting her hot hand for the evening.
She finished the quarter with a three off a steal, but Manitou finished the first quarter with a 17-15 lead.
Manitou's star, point guard Shelby Megyeri, hit just her second shot of the game to start the second quarter, but Lions point guard Kristin Vigil answered with a three to tally her first points of the game.
From then on, Vigil was alive and the Lions began to capitalize on Mustang misses. Vigil scored another three at the end of the half to cut the halftime lead to one, 30-29 Mustangs.
The second half was another show of beyond-the-arc shooting, with three threes in a row, two from the Lions. Barone and Vigil continued to score, creating the biggest gap of the game at six points with under two minutes in third quarter play.
Manitou started the fourth quarter with a full-court press that seemed promising, creating an early turnover, followed by jumpers dropping from 'Stangs senior Brooke Garretson to make the game close again.
But Lutheran just couldn't miss and Manitou began coming up short on the offensive end. The last two minutes of foul shooting from Lutheran sealed its victory.