Van Gytenbeek's heroics lead Cherry Creek over Grandview for 5A girls basketball title

DENVER — Down 10 points with about six minutes left in the game, Cherry Creek coach Clint Evans was starting to lose faith.

But his players weren't.

Little by little Jana Van Gytenbeek and Kacee Kyle helped the Cherry Creek Bruins fight back. And in the final five seconds of the game they pulled ahead and closed it out.

With a 51-49 win over two-time defending Class 5A champion Grandview, Cherry Creek won its first girls state basketball title on Saturday.

"I think we were down 10 with six minutes left," Evans said. "We were just hoping for something good to happen then. I think we got Jana a corner 3-pointer and that was some momentum."

It turned out to be the break in the dam. Van Gytenbeek took over from there on out. She willed the Bruins to within two and then Kacee Kyle tied the game at 47. A quick Grandview bucket gave the Wolves a 49-47 lead but it was Kyle attacking the basket again.

"We just needed to attack," Kyle said. "I just felt like I had to take that ball and tried to win the game."

Or in this case, set the team up for the win.

She made the shot and got fouled, but missed the free throw. Cherry Creek got the offensive rebound setting up one final look to win the state championship.

The ball went into the hands of Van Gytenbeek who shot the ball over two defenders — one of which being 6-foot-7 freshman Lauren Betts. The ball bounced off the glass and fell cleanly through the net.

Cherry Creek Grandview girls basketball

(Sam Girgis/CHSAANow.com)

"It's bad but we dig ourselves into a tiny hole and then we come together and we finish," Van Gytenbeek said. "It takes everybody."

Normally it's Van Gytenbeek and Clark who pave the way for the Bruins (24-4) overall. But with Betts giving Clark fits in the post and Van Gytenbeek limited to four points in the first half, it was Kyle who stepped up in a big way.

She scored 21 points which included the two late baskets that tied the game.

"We said in practice that if we expected Jana and Cali to win the game by themselves it wasn't going to happen," Evans said. "Kacee came up in a big way. She's the most poised sophomore you've ever seen."

Creek found an early edge to start the game but Allyah Marlett neutralized it quickly. The senior guard for the Wolves (23-5) scored seven of her nine first-half points in the first quarter to help the Wolves take a five-point lead.

Kyle kept the Bruins in the game through by scoring 10 of the Bruins 12 points in the second quarter. The presence of Betts made it difficult for Clark to score in the post for the Bruins.

Alisha Davis provided a steady flow of points for the Wolves as she racked up 13 points through three quarters.

After beating top-seeded Highlands Ranch on Thursday, the confidence level for Creek remained high, even at the point where Evans' faith began to waver.

"Highlands Ranch is such a great team," Kyle said. "So is Grandview. They're the two-time state champs. The whole time we kept saying one team, one goal."

And that mentality served the Bruins well late in the game.

Each time the Bruins knocked down a big shot that appeared to shift momentum, Grandview found an an answer. If it was Tomia Johnson getting to the free throw line or Betts getting a put back basket, the Wolves managed to keep Cherry Creek at arms length. At least until Van Gytenbeek decided to take over.

She'll be the first to say that it wasn't her it was the team. And when Evans began to worry, she kept the Bruins calm on the floor. Her poise was rewarded with the biggest shot of her career trickling through the net and Cherry Creek winning a state title.

"That's a feeling I can't explain," she said. "It's unbelievable."

(Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)