DENVER — The long wait is over for St. Mary’s — its girls’ hoop team can finally enjoy the view from the top.
Makenna Bodette scored 15 and Josephine Howery added 14 points as St. Mary’s beat Colorado Springs Christian 44-38 in an all-Colorado Springs Class 3A girls basketball championship at the University of Denver’s Hamilton Gymnasium.
Clinging to a 40-38 lead in the final minute, Howery went 4 for 4 from the free throw line and Bodette had a key block on Megan Engesser to seal the school’s first state title in basketball.
“I can’t explain how I feel right now,” said Bodette, the team’s senior captain. “It’s unreal. I’m just really excited.”
The Tri-Peaks rivals had met twice before the finals with both teams winning once. And just like the first two, the finale came right down to the wire.
The Pirates (26-1) led 21-14 at half, using a 15-5 run to finish the second quarter in command. The Lions scored five straight points to tie the game at 14-apiece before Josephine Howery and Mary Cummings hit 3s in the final two minutes as part of a momentum-swinging 7-0 spurt.
Behind Engesser, though, the Lions (23-4) roared back to take a 30-29 lead in the third before the Pirates outscored them 12-8 in the fourth.
Howery hit her first two free throws to give the Pirates a 42-38 lead with 51 seconds remaining and Bodette swatted Engesser in the lane to preserve it moments later.
Howery, just a sophomore, said she thought about the hours her team had worked to get to this moment while at the line.
“I just knew I had to do it for my team,” she said. “I just took a deep breath and focused.”
Bodette had a similar mentality as she soared high to deny Engesser, 3A’s leading scorer, in the final seconds.
“I had four fouls, but I wanted to help my team no matter what there,” the senior captain said. “No matter what I was either going to get the block or foul out there. I had to do that for my team.”
Engesser had a game-high 21 points to lead CSCS, which finished as the state runner-up for the second straight season. She had 10 points by the half and another nine in the third before hitting just once in the fourth.
The Lions outshot the Pirates, but they lost the battle on the boards and turnovers. St. Mary’s outrebounded CSCS 33-22 and scored 17 points off steals.
“There is just so many things that could go either way and either team could have won,” CSCS coach Mark Engesser said. “Just a few things here or there. … They went their way and they did a good job.”
The Pirates’ win was their first in hoops — both boys or girls. At the buzzer, the team celebrated alongside their fans before jumping in joy all the way to the locker room.
“I think the school has been around for something like 140 years and it’s cool that this is the first state title in hoops,” St. Mary’s coach Mike Burkett said. “This is a good group. They won it for their community and for their school.”