LOVELAND – Friday evening was the championship round of the 2A State basketball tournament at Budweiser Event Center. On either side of the bracket the San Luis Valley had girls’ basketball of interest. In the 4 p.m. game Del Norte never got off the ground against the defending champs falling to Yuma 51-35. And Sanford’s defense couldn’t save them from their fouls falling to Swink 39-37 in the 7 p.m. game.
Del Norte kicked things off in the championship bracket facing No. 2 Yuma. Both teams showed evidence of ‘big game’ jitters as preliminary stats had both teams shooting below 30 percent from the field in the first quarter. Yuma would walk out to an 8-7 lead after one. Entering the second quarter Yuma would shake the jitters and gain traction tripling their shooting percentage from their field. Del Norte stayed in hibernation going to the half trailing 28-14.
Watching the deficit balloon from 1 to 14 points in eight minutes was enough to inspire a little life from the Tigers in the third frame. Senior Sophie McConnell took the reins and helped Del Norte cut into the deficit with her team leading 5 points in the third quarter.
Trailing in the final quarter Del Norte was unable to right the ship, in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter even losing Kendra Parra and Emily Gallegos to fouls. McConnell stepped up for the Tigers leading in scoring with 12 points on the night. Gallegos finished second with 8. With the loss Del Norte’s season extended to the third-place game.
At the other end of the bracket Sanford having knocked off the No. 1 Limon Badgers would pull the assignment of the Swink Lions. Sanford would get off to a slow start in the semifinal matchup watching Swink take a 8-3 lead after one. In the second frame Sanford would crank up the physicality but with it came fouls. Early in the in the second quarter Lauren Canty would commit Sanford’s seventh foul to put Swink in bonus. Swink would go the remainder of the half subsisting on Sanford’s aggression.
The Lions went 6-of-7 from the charity stripe to hold Sanford off going to the half up 16-13.
Both defenses would step up in the third quarter, Swink leading 22-18 setting up an 8-minute race to the finish. While the points continued to trickle in, every basket gained weight until the ball would fall to the bottom of the net like a stone.
A Canty trey would bring Sanford within 2 for Chelsea Edgar to tie the game at 26 points. Nykia Ruvolo put Sanford back in the driver’s seat with a free throw to go up 27-26 with under three minutes to play. Swink would fill those minutes with two free throws from Tierra Howard to get the Lions back in the ahead and a third one from Kyla O’Neal to make it a two-point game. In the final seconds a drive inside from Sanford’s Cheyenne Caldon was blocked with the ball falling to Swink to close out the game setting up a Swink-Yuma State Championship.
Meanwhile in the third-place game for the fifth time this season Del Norte and Sanford will face off once again, this time it will be for third place in the 2A class. The series is currently tied at two games a-piece. Tip off for the high stakes rematch is set for 2 p.m.