Evergreen heading to third-straight 4A girls basketball title game

Evergreen players celebrate during the final seconds of the Cougars' 48-32 Class 4A state semifinal victory over Widefield. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

DENVER — Playing for the Class 4A girls basketball state championship trophy has become an annual event for Evergreen.

Evergreen coach Amy Bahl and her Cougars will play in a third-consecutive 4A title game on Saturday. The Cougars took a 48-32 victory over Widefield in the semifinals on Thursday night at the Denver Coliseum.

"Anybody can step up at anytime for us," Bahl said of her team that lost just one senior to graduation.

Evergreen faces Pueblo South in the 4A girls basketball title game 1 p.m. Saturday at the Denver Coliseum. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

The Cougars got its normal balance on the court in all aspects. Senior Kristina Schreiber was the only Cougar in double-digit points, but fellow senior guards Baylee Galan-Browne and Hannah Kennedy combined for 12 points and eight rebounds. Senior Meriel Hahn and junior Claudia Dillon controlled the inside combining for 16 points and 14 rebounds.

Evergreen looked like the experienced and veteran team it is in the third quarter. The Cougars outscored the Gladiators 13-7 after halftime to take a 34-23 lead going into the fourth quarter.

"Our third quarters are generally better," Bahl admitted. "We have a little engine within us and it kind of clicks in that third quarter."

Schreiber hit a big 3-pointer with 3:40 left in the third quarter to give the Cougars’ its first double-digit lead of the game at 30-18.

"We always have a big turning point in the third quarter," said Schreiber, who finished with a team-high 16 points, including eight points in the final quarter. "At that point we knew we could win."

(Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

The main issue the Cougars had to deal with was foul trouble. Dillon picked up her fourth foul with just more than a minute left in the third quarter. She fouled out with 3:36 to play in the game. Her younger sister, sophomore Hayley Dillon, came off the bench and played more than 20 minutes to help out with the loss of the 6-foot-2 junior.

"We are kind of used to her (Dillon) getting in foul trouble," Schreiber said. "We've been on this stage two years in a row. We know if one player gets knocked out we all have to pick it up."

The No. 6-seeded Cougars face No. 12 Pueblo South in the 4A championship game scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday back at the Denver Coliseum. The Colts took a 74-62 overtime victory over No. 8 Mesa Ridge in the first semifinal Thursday night.

"It's crazy. Great for Pueblo South to make a great run to get here," Bahl said of the rematch with the Colts.

(Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

Evergreen will attempt to become back-to-back state champions. The Cougars defeated Pueblo South 45-35 a year ago in the 4A title game to bring home Evergreen's first girls basketball state title in the school’s history.

Jeffco League rival Valor Christian became back-to-back state champions when it defeated Evergreen in the 2016 title game that was played at the Coors Event Center in Boulder two years ago.

Evergreen ended the impressive postseason run by No. 15 Widefield. The Gladiators upset No. 2 Holy Family in the Sweet 16, and then No. 10 Golden in the Great 8 last week. Widefield couldn't get much going offensively, being held to single-digit points in every quarter.

Junior Aaliyah Ricketts scored a game-high 17 points for the Gladiators in the loss.

"Our team is based off of defense," Schreiber said after the Cougars held Widefield to 24 percent shooting. "We won our championship off of defense. We know that is what we have to focus on."

(Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)