DENVER — Making a return trip to the Class 5A state championship game has been the goal all along for Grandview’s girls basketball team.
But make no mistake — the mission isn’t finished just yet.
“It feels good, but we’re not done yet,” Wolves senior Leilah Vigil said after fourth-seeded Grandview defeated No. 8 Fossil Ridge 54-38 in the Final 4 on Thursday night at Denver Coliseum. “Our job’s not done yet. We’re going to get there as a team, as a family; together, that’s what it is — one unit.”
Vigil and Alisha Davis both finished with double-doubles for Grandview (24-3), which will face either Lakewood or Regis Jesuit for the 5A state title at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Coliseum.
The Wolves have the opportunity to defend their championship of a year ago, but coach Josh Ulitzky said that isn’t necessarily the way the squad is looking at it.
“I would say it’s a different group, so we don’t really talk about defending it,” Ulitzky said. “We talk about we’re trying to earn one with this team. They’re excited for it.”
A late first-half surge gave Grandview the separation — and momentum — it needed to finally find its rhythm.
Locked in a tight game with the SaberCats (20-6), the Wolves broke things open with a 9-2 run to close the first half. With the score tied at 21-21, Grandview sophomore Tomia Johnson scored her first points of the night. Davis followed her own miss with a putback to make it 25-21, and after two Ashley Steffeck free throws for Fossil Ridge, Johnson hit a big 3-pointer.
Addison O’Grady dropped in a lay-up just before the buzzer to make it 30-23.
“(Tomia) was great. She was one of the ones who I think struggled a little bit the first time,” Ulitzky said of the team’s Great 8 victory over Highlands Ranch. “She looked great. She looked back to normal, so I’m very happy for her. Sariah Serrano gave us great minutes tonight too, and Kam (Brown) was great and Landri (Hudson).
“Our bench kids did a really nice job for us.”
Fossil Ridge, which lost starting guard Katey Guzman to an apparent ankle injury in the first half, closed the gap to within three points early in the third quarter before Grandview finished the quarter with a 13-3 run to push its lead to 13 points.
Eight players had scored for the Wolves going into the final quarter.
“That’s kind of who we are, so that was fun to see us show up a little bit,” Ulitzky said. “I will take that and dwell on the positive.”
Vigil and Davis created plenty of opportunities with second-chance points. Vigil had a game-high 16 points to go along with 11 rebounds, and Davis went for 11 points and 14 rebounds.
“We’re big, but at the same time we’re able to play other positions too. (Coach) doesn’t have to just keep us down low,” Vigil said. “We can also shoot from the perimeter. He has us do a little bit of both. I’m just grateful that I have a post ready like Alisha to help me down there and give me another good run for it.”
This was Grandview’s fifth appearance in the Final 4 in six seasons, though the Wolves will be making only their second trip to the title game in that span.
Fossil Ridge was attempting to get back to the championship game for the first time since the 2014 season. Steffeck finished with 13 points for the SaberCats, who were just 4-of-32 shooting in the second half.