BOULDER — Valor Christian repeated as the Class 4A girls basketball champion on Thursday, and did it against a familiar opponent.
The Eagles, in the three contests this season, pulled away from Evergreen by a total of 37 points, finishing the Cougars off in the 4A finals by a 55-40 margin on Saturday at Coors Events Center.
Valor has now won back-to-back state championships in girls basketball, their fifth championship total in girls sports and their 16th overall championship in school history.
As much as Evergreen (24-4), a No. 2 seed, clawed their way back into the game with the offensive fireworks of freshman post player Claudia Dillon (14 points, 9 rebounds) and senior forward Samantha Kisiel (13, 8 rebounds), the Cougar hot streaks never quite matched the consistent play at both ends for Valor, a No. 1 seed and pre-tournament favorite.
Valor led the entire game and held leads of 32-20 at the break and 42-33 after the third. Evergreen closed within six multiple times in the final frame, but Valor had three scorers in double-figures with 5:32 remaining and a 46-36 lead. Kim Childress (19 points), Heidi Hammond (11) and Madison McCoy (14), a senior trio, all had offensive grooves, sparking runs that ultimately decided the game.
Kisiel also fouled out for Evergreen with 1:52 left, but the Cougars’ fate had already appeared sealed while down 11 points. Evergreen was appearing in their first-ever girls basketball final.
“One of our biggest keys was keeping them out of the middle during our full-court trap,” Childress said. “That was all we talked about all week. Once we started getting stops, we got more stops and more stops.”
Valor Christian rolled over Sand Creek 73-47 in the 4A finals last season, but a return trip to the last game was anything but guaranteed after graduating standouts like Kendall Bradbury and Caroline Bryan from a 26-3 team. Instead of taking a slight step backward, the Eagles took a step forward this season by claiming back-to-back, finishing with a 27-1 record, and cementing their legacy as a 4A powerhouse.
“It just shows how successful the plays are, how good Coach Jess is and really the unity that we build throughout the season shows that this is a team that you want to be with,” Childress said.
Coach Jessika Caldwell said the latest group of fourth-year players, led by Hammond, Childress, McCoy and Sara Gibson, carried a heavy load and performed admirably.
“Each piece was there and each person bought into their role,” Caldwell said. “I’m just really thankful to be at Valor, to coach these young ladies. I really consider it such a privilege.”
And so, Valor Christian is writing another chapter in their hoops tradition. Caldwell pointed out that the Highlands Ranch hoops community, with Highlands Ranch and ThunderRidge facing off in the 5A girls final, has helped to inspire the competitiveness in the area.
“Being in the vicinity of Highlands Ranch and ThunderRidge, who are playing for their state championship, we’re all about five miles away from each other,” Caldwell said. “I just think that for our school and for our girls, they worked extremely hard. I don’t think a lot of people thought we would be in this position, but we just refused to buy into that.”