LOVELAND — For the past couple of years, Yuma High School boys basketball was under construction.
It was a program that had won just 12 games over the past two years combined and was in the state tournament for the first time since 2013. But finally, this year, Yuma built a winner.
Taking on the moniker of a cartoon construction worker, Bob The Builder — or “BTB,” an abbreviation that Victor Mendoza says will now be engraved on the team's state championship rings — the Yuma boys completed an incredible turnaround from an 8-12 season a year ago to a 25-2 state championship season.
Entering the Class 2A boys state championship basketball game as the No. 2 seed, Yuma knocked off No. 1 and previously unbeaten Crowley County 59-41 for the rights to the crown.
“After a game last year, we had a couple of starters out and we still won the game,” junior Victor Mendoza said. “We said, ‘You know what? We’re going to take this into next year.’ We said like Bob the Builder, BTB. Bob the Builder is in what zone? The construction zone. So we just said we’re going to keep building, and this year we finally got it.”
Yuma will now be in for some more remodeling as it hangs a fourth boys basketball state championship banner on its decorated gymnasium wall, ending a drought that dated back to 1981. On the other side, Crowley County was vying for its first title since 1968.
Crowley County, usually led by a potent offense, struggled to gain its footing early on and its two key bigs, senior Bradley Carnes-Clabey and junior Lane Walter, both picked up three fouls before the first half ended.
Couple the Charger foul trouble with a quick start on the other end — Yuma jumped out to a 13-5 lead after the first eight minutes — and a pair of 3-pointers from Steven Wells off the bench, and Yuma had a formula for success.
“(Crowley County is a very good team, a lot of credit to them,” Yuma coach Dave Sheffield said. “They do what they do well, and their strength was their bigs inside. We pretty much sent doubles at them the entire night and we were able to stifle them. All credit to these guys, they put in a tremendous amount of work and they deserve every ounce of what they just did.”
The Chargers made a run early in the second half but never closed the gap to fewer than six points. Mendoza finished with 12 points, including six in the fourth quarter, while teammate Connor Hixon led the scoring with 15 points thanks to a pair of dagger 3-pointers in the final frame.
Until Saturday night, no school had won both the boys and girls state basketball championships in the same season since Holy Family accomplished the feat in 2014 in Class 3A.
But Yuma, surely playing inspired by watching the girls team soar to a title just before they took the court, did just that. Coincidentally, Grandview also accomplished the title sweep in the Class 5A tournament on Saturday.
“It’s an incredible, incredible situation,” Sheffield said. “You look up in the stands and see all of the red here, and you can tell how much it means. These guys follow us around and it’s a passionate fanbase.”