COLORADO SPRINGS — As Kindyll Wetta walked off the floor, she grabbed Valor Christian coach Jessika Caldwell and wrapped her up in a big hug. The two have been through a lot together. Caldwell watched for two years as Wetta lost some or all of a basketball season because of separate torn ACLs.
But on a snowy, late-March night in the Broadmoor World Arena, the pain all felt worth it. The top-seeded Eagles had clinched a 67-42 win over No. 2 Regis Jesuit to claim the Class 5A girls basketball title.
"When she came off the court, I was really fighting back tears," Caldwell said. "Just watching her walk through what she's walked through and the road that she's traveled and to see her play with such confidence and toughness, it looked like a kid out there having fun."
She even got to have fun with her sister. Ali was the surprise of the game, scoring 14 points to double her season average. Overall, the Eagles (16-0 overall) had four players in double figures as Macey Huard (14) and Jenna Siebert (10) also had good nights.
When 2:16 remained in the first quarter, the Eagles led Regis 8-7. Then they closed that frame with a quick 7-3 burst that gave them a 19-10 advantage after the first quarter.
Ali Wetta scored five points in the quarter after coming off the bench and it was just the start of her own breakout party, a party where she finished with 14 points.
"I went in and my teammates were able to find me," Ali said. "I had some great passes from my teammates and I just wanted to go in and give my all for the seniors.
The Eagles stretched their lead to 29-18 at halftime, thanks to another small spurt — 5-0 — to end that quarter.
Feeling a championship in their grasp, the Eagles kept up the pressure on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Kidyll scored 13 of her game-high 17 points in the second half. She also finished the game with 10 assists to get a double-double in her last high school game.
"There isn't a better way (to end a career)," Kindyll said. "Now that my sister's playing after missing a year (with a torn ACL), to win it this year with her is incredible."
The Eagles also clamped down on Regis guard Avery Vansickle, holding her scoreless in the third quarter as they stretched out their lead. Vansickle eventually finished with 14 points and will go down as one of the great Regis Jesuit players of all-time.
Caldwell couldn't help but get emotional for her players as their cheered her championship victory, but there was an element of the win that was special for her as well. She played basketball at Coronado before playing collegiately at Baylor.
She embraced her star guard on the same floor where she walked for high school graduation, showing when the time is right, it's possible to go home again.
"This is where I picked up a basketball for the first time," she said. "It's where I fell in love with the game and where my dad taught me and coached me. It was kind of the beginning of my career so to be able to come back and coach these girls and stand on this sideline is pretty special."