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De Beque captures 1A boys basketball championship

De Beque Sangre de Cristo boys basketball

(Dustin Price/DustinPricePhotography.com)

PUEBLO — Just five years ago, De Beque didn't win a single game.

Now, as they hoisted the banner as the newest Class 1A boys basketball state champions, De Beque didn't lose a single game. 

Led by a standout performance by sophomore Wesley Ryan, who went for 27 points to lead the Dragons, De Beque won its first state championship since 1998 with a 55-42 win over Sangre de Cristo in the 1A state championship game at CSU-Pueblo's Massari Arena Saturday night.

It was an unbelievable journey rife with storylines.

Beginning this season, former Grand Valley head coach Jake Higuera took over the De Beque program, taking over a team that was 14-8 in 2018, and before that, won a grand total of 22 games over 10 seasons.

Despite all of that, though, Higuera said knew he had the pieces in place to be good, but he didn't know how good.

"Honestly, early on, it was pretty rough," Higuera said. "I really didn't know what we had to begin with, but the kids bought in right away, started listening us, and every day, you see them little by little getting better."

De Beque had a mixture of special young talent, which included sophomores Jaden Jordan, Ryan and Brennan Rigsby, the latter of which averaged 22.5 points per game this season. 

Then it had a group of six seniors that had been through the ringer. As freshmen and sophomores, they won a grand total of six varsity games.

All of those ragtag pieces came together Saturday night to win a championship.

Sangre de Cristo led De Beque 16-15 near the end of the first half, and it seemed that it was possible that De Beque's unbelievable mission might come to an end.

But a buzzer-beater three-pointer by Jordan capped the first half to give De Beque a 20-16 lead heading to halftime, and that momentum continued into the championship-making third quarter.

Ryan, the team's second-leading scorer who often deferred to Ringsby as the team's "superstar," was an absolute gamer for the Dragons, not only Saturday, but in Friday's semifinals as well.

Ryan completed four three-point plays in the third quarter, helping to key a dominant 19-5 De Beque explosion. Ryan finished with 27 points, and had 23 points on 9-for-10 shooting in De Beque's semifinal win over Haxtun Friday night.

"I've gotta do what's best for my team," Ryan said. "I felt even more composed than (Friday night). I don't know why. I just wanted it so bad."

Now, De Beque will add a new championship photo to its halls, joining the 1998 team photo, of which Higuera was a member.

It's a welcome addition, Higuera said. 

"I'm glad we get to hang another picture up," Higuera said, "because that one was getting a little lonely."

Fernando Candelaria, one of the six De Beque seniors who'd seen the dark days of Dragon basketball, couldn't keep the tears from flowing as he and his teammates lifted the state title trophy. He thought about the journey to get there.

"What was going through my head was all the emotions, all the past," Candelaria said. "When we were freshman to now, we had been through the ups and downs. Now, I couldn't be more happy."

(Anthony Sandstrom/CHSAANow.com)