GREELEY — The Heritage Christian girls basketball team boasts a 23-2 record.
The two losses? Both came against Fleming, a scrappy group with ample amounts of championship experience from winning the Class 1A volleyball state crown in the fall. A 39-37 1A girls basketball semifinals sneak-by pushed the Wildcats into a volleyball finals rematch against undefeated Kit Carson.
“I’ve been to two state championships in volleyball, but have never been to one in basketball,” junior forward Alli Keisel said. “Kit Carson is such a good team and I’m so glad we get to play them again.”
After pulling through against Heritage Christian 67-55 in the District 4 championship game on February 25, the Eagles came out with plenty of momentum in round two. The offensive prowess of senior Sarah McGinley (20.6 points per game, 6.4 assists, 9.8 rebounds, 3.8 steals, 1.9 blocks) was evident. She started the game with 12 of her team’s 14 points as Heritage Christian took a two-point lead after the first quarter.
Then, Fleming tied it at 20 at halftime. Point guard Kalyn Serrato breathed life into her team throughout, as she does so often in games, with two three-pointers in the opening quarter and 11 points in the first half.
The Wildcats held a slim 29-28 lead after three frames. Defensive pressure intensified for Fleming and McGinley only scored five points after the first quarter, a major reason why the Wildcats were able to advance to the title game.
With two and a half minutes remaining, Serrato had a basket to give Fleming a 36-34 lead. McGinley made a deuce at the line to tie the game with 1:27 left. A well-executed inbounds play gave Shaylee Johnson a layup for Fleming with 41 seconds left. Jenn Stellingwerf (nine points) was fouled with 2.3 seconds left and made one of two free throws to pull the Eagles within 38-37.
A foul by Heritage Christian sent Keisel to the line and she made one and missed one. Keisel stole the full-court inbounds and Heritage Christian was knocked out of their first-ever Final 4 in girls basketball.
Serrato led the Wildcats with 15 points, while Keisel finished with eight.
Fleming will be appearing in their fifth girls basketball title game. They lost the A-II final to Ridgway in 1982 and the 1983 final to Norwood, but beat Ridgway in 1981 to claim the A-II crown. They also reached the final game in 1A in 2011, a narrow 40-37 loss to Simla.
Title No. 2 is on the line for Fleming against Kit Carson at 4 p.m. at Budweiser Events Center in Loveland on Saturday. The Wildcats (24-1) lost to Kit Carson 55-44 on February 4, but are confident they can avenge their only loss of the season.
“What killed us against them was our backside defense, but mostly we just need to play our game,” Keisel said.
Heritage Christian, led by Colorado Christian University commit McGinley and her 17 points, will face South Baca in the third-place game at noon.
(1) Kit Carson 59, (4) South Baca 37
For the second consecutive season, Kit Carson girls basketball entered the Class 1A state tournament as a prohibitive favorite to claim the crown with an unblemished record.
In 2016, the Wildcats’ perfect season was spoiled by eighth-seeded South Baca in the Great 8. Again the top seed, Kit Carson was facing upset-minded South Baca in the semifinals on Friday at the University of Northern Colorado’s Bank of Colorado Arena.
This time, Kit Carson rode a 10-0 opening run all the way to a 59-37 victory over the Patriots to advance to their first state championship game in girls hoops.
The Wildcats are brimming with skilled underclassmen — seven of 10 players on the roster are sophomores or freshmen — and all four leading scorers from 2016 returned. On top of that, Kit has six players standing between five-foot-ten and six-foot-two, an unusually tall team in 1A.
While Kit Carson has a bevy of weapons, which includes the Isenbart sister trio of Micayla, Reyna and Olivia (all average nine points per game), one Wildcat topped the rest Friday as 6-foot sophomore Tess Hornung was a matchup nightmare.
Proving her worth as a top contender for 1A player of the year honors, Hornung finished with 25 points. Reyna Isenbart chipped in 12 as the tandem controlled the inside.
“We definitely have a really big team,” Hornung, averaging 14.2 points per game, said. “I know it intimidates some other teams.”
Kit Carson (24-0) has reached the state tournament four seasons in succession. They have a tremendous 72-2 record in the past three years combined. The school has claimed three state championships, one in volleyball and two in boys basketball.
History will be on the line for the girls hoops program on Saturday at 4 p.m. when they take on Fleming.
“I love being part of a legacy,” Hornung grinned. “Kit Carson for so long has gotten close. We finally get a chance to do it.”
For South Baca (20-4), senior guard Bree-ann Carwin entered Friday as 1A’s leading scorer (21.9 points per game) but was held in check with only four points. Backcourt mate Brittany Guthrie finished with 17 points with 14 of them coming after the break. The Patriots will face Heritage Christian in the third-place game at noon on Saturday.