DENVER — Manual trailed often during the Class 3A boys basketball state championship game on Saturday. But an explosive end to the third quarter put Thunderbolts in position to win a state title.
And Manual did exactly that, capturing their state-record 12th crown with an 80-68 victory against Vanguard behind an aggressive defense and superb athleticism.
The atmosphere at the University of Denver was enthusiastic and Manual fed off of the crowd's energy. It was an energy Manual used to rally and take the lead, and then eventually pull away in the fourth quarter.
Manual trailed by as much as 39-26 with 4:29 remaining in the third quarter before exploding for 54 points the final quarter and a half. The T-Bolts outscored Vanguard by 25 in that stretch, thanks in large part to clutch shooting to end the third quarter from senior Jaedon Bowles and junior Jaden Stofel.
It helped Manual get within striking distance at 51-44 heading to the fourth.
“Between the both of them, I believe they can play anywhere in this state,” Manual coach Omar Henry said postgame. “Both of them work really hard at what they do. We spend hours on them working on taking over games in the fourth quarter, and that’s what they finally showed today. When the fourth quarter started, they showed up and took things over.”
Manual finally retook the lead for the first time since early in the second quarter with a 54-53 score 2:23 into the fourth.
The lead then changed hands four times before Manual seized control at 62-57 with 3:58 remaining.
Vanguard wouldn't go down without a fight, though, and they cut the margin back to one with 3:11 left.
Staying calm, cool, and collected the Thunderbolts went on a 16-5 run to end the game. The Manual defense locked in when they had to.
“We came out of halftime saying we need to put pressure on them,” Bowles said. “They were getting too many easy shots. Everything is special to me right now. It’s unbelievable. I’m glad I have a team that I have right now and to bring back the championship. It’s been a long time.”
Recording a team-high 26 points and 12 rebounds, Bowles’ do-it-all attitude proved infectious to the rest of his teammates.
Manual forced 12 turnovers in the second half after Vanguard had just three in the first. Manual found success in the full-court press using their length to cause deflections and easy baskets on the other end.
“We have been down this much all year,” senior Davion Davis said. “Our coach told us to stay calm, and as one, we just fought and fought and fought. This is very special for us.”
Vanguard was led by junior Dominique Clifford's 25 points, and senior Seth Fuqua had 20.
Three other Thunderbolts found themselves in double-figures in Stofel (20), senior Adontre Thompson (16) and Davis (12). Stofel and Davis also recorded eight rebounds apiece.
“I don’t even have words for it right now, that’s how great it feels. I’m truly blessed,” Henry said.