DENVER — It was somehow fitting that a thrilling back-and-forth shootout was ultimately decided at the free-throw line.
With both Regis Jesuit and Grandview losing key scoring threats to foul trouble Saturday night, the Class 5A girls basketball state championship game became a free-for-all in the final quarter.
With three starters fouling out for the Raiders, the Wolves took advantage by knocking down a handful of clutch free throws in the final minute on their way to a 67-61 victory at Denver Coliseum.
It was the highest-scoring 5A girls championship game since 2003.
Grandview (25-3) claimed its second consecutive 5A crown in the process, capping an intense, physical 32 minutes by hoisting the state trophy once again. The Wolves also proved themselves in the process after graduating the 2017 Player of the Year, Michaela Onyenwere.
“Being able to win it with this group of girls, especially after we were told that we wouldn’t be able to do it again with the people that we lost last year — this is amazing,” Grandview junior Alisha Davis said. “Not only to prove everybody wrong but to put this one in the books as well.”
Freshman Addison O’Grady scored a game-high 14 points and was 6-of-8 from the free-throw line. Davis and Leilah Vigil each scored 13 points, and Allyah Marlett added 11.
The Wolves were 7-of-8 from the line in the fourth quarter and overcame the loss of Vigil — the team’s leading scorer — after she fouled out with five minutes, five seconds remaining in the game.
“I’m proud of them all. They’re my sisters,” Vigil said. “I love them with every piece of me, and it’s going to hurt going to college next year. But those girls fought for me, and that’s what I really appreciated most.”
Jada Moore scored 13 points to lead the Raiders (24-4), who had not lost to a team from Colorado this season. Jasmine Gaines drained three 3-pointers and scored 12 points, and Fran Belibi and Avery Vansickle added 11 each.
Regis Jesuit led by four points with 2:17 remaining but had its three leading scorers foul out down the stretch. Vansickle and Belibi went out in the final four minutes, and Moore fouled out with 41.3 seconds remaining.
With a little more than two minutes to go, Davis hit a pair of baskets inside the paint to cut the deficit to 61-59, and O’Grady hit a free throw to make it a one-point game. The teams traded missed chances until Davis came up with a steal and was fouled on the other end with 44.3 seconds remaining.
The forward converted both attempts to put Grandview up 62-61. Moore was whistled for a charge, and Jaiden Galloway added another free throw to make it a two-point game.
Marlett and Galloway combined to go 4-for-4 from the line in the final 20 seconds. The Raiders were held scoreless over the final 2:17.
“I think the kids just really stepped up. They knew we needed defensive stops and to get turnovers, and they did,” Grandview coach Josh Ulitzky said. “We had kids who struggled a little bit for a little while, and they really stepped up and got in there.”
The action was so fast-paced and frantic that there wasn’t much time for anyone to stop and think about what was at stake.
“That’s how every game is,” Davis said. “You just develop momentum, and once you get that adrenaline rushing, you just go from there. That’s how we were able to pull this off.”
Regis Jesuit took an 18-5 lead in the opening minutes of the game, but the Wolves recovered and went on a 10-0 run to pull within three late in the first quarter. Grandview didn’t take its first lead until Galloway beat the buzzer at the end of the first half.
“I was like ‘look, we can’t get it all back right now. One possession at a time,’” Ulitzky said. “Us worrying about trying to make up a deficit in one or two possessions isn’t going to happen, so just focus on what we do.”
The players never doubted themselves, even after falling behind in the first quarter and again after losing Vigil in the fourth.
“It’s the thing we’ve been working on all season,” O’Grady said. “We had one goal, and to finally achieve that goal is just great. It’s the best feeling in the world.”