LITTLETON — Columbine junior Cameron Dean admitted he made the biggest 3-pointers of his life Friday night.
Dean, who had only scored double-digit points once this season, poured in a dozen points that included a pair of 3-pointers in the final quarter as the Rebels pulled away for a 64-48 home victory over rival Chatfield.
“Those looked amazing,” Columbine sophomore Justin Lohrenz said of Dean’s 3-pointers midway through the fourth quarter that pushed the Rebels to a double-digit lead. “Right when they left his fingers I knew they were going in.”
The victory gave Columbine its first Class 5A Jeffco League boys basketball title since the 2011-12 season.
“It’s great. This was the goal these guys have set,” Columbine coach Clay Thielking said. “They fought through a lot of adversity all year long. It’s such a resilient group of guys. I’m just really, really happy for them.”
The Rebels started the season 1-4 and even got off to a 1-2 conference mark before winning 9-of-11 to close the regular season as the hottest team in 5A Jeffco.
“It feels amazing. It feels just great,” Lohrenz said as the Rebels cut down the nets to celebrate the league title.
Columbine (13-10, 10-4 in 5A Jeffco) are co-league champs with Arvada West (15-8, 10-4). However, the Rebels will officially go in as the automatic qualifier for the 48-team 5A state tournament that begins next week.
“We will definitely be an underdog,” Dean said about the playoffs. “We are just going to go, fight and play our best.”
Columbine won the tiebreaker of point differential between the Rebels and Wildcats over their two head-to-head meetings. Columbine is guaranteed a top-32 seed and first-round home game for the state tournament.
There was no guarantee for the Rebels when they took the court against Chatfield (11-12, 7-7). The Chargers defeated the Rebels in their first meeting.
The rivals were tied at 41-41 early in the fourth quarter, but Columbine outscored Chatfield 23-9 in the final quarter to win going away. Sophomore Luke O’Brien (13 points) was held under his season average, but Lohrenz (14 points) and sophomore Andrew Lauritzen had a monster game off the bench for 12 points.
“I thought their role players really stepped up and played great,” Chatfield coach Stephen Schimpeler said after the Chargers’ third straight loss.
Chatfield senior Liam Mann led the way for the Chargers with 12 points. The loss officially ended Chatfield remarkable run of back-to-back conference titles that included a 30-game league winning streak over that period.
“Chatfield has had a really great run. That’s a really great team with a very good coach that we have a lot of respect for,” Thielking said. “We try not to make this game bigger than it really is, but games against your rivals are more meaningful. When you throw a league title in there it’s a pretty special night.”
Chatfield and Columbine will both have to wait until Sunday, Feb. 18, for the 5A state brackets to be released on CHSAANow.com to see who their first-round opponents will be.
While 5A Jeffco is looked at for having a down year on the state level, anything is possible in the postseason. Columbine is a good example of how to battle through the tough times to make the best of an opportunity.
“That’s just Columbine, we are resilient,” Dean said. “We have been through so much, but we stick together. It’s a brotherhood. I love this group of guys.”