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CCSD Athletics: Highlights from the week of Feb. 26

6A Girls State Hoops: CTHS Girls 6A State Basketball: District teams advance to Final 4

Girls and boys basketball teams represented the Cherry Creek School District in exemplary fashion this past weekend at the 6A State Basketball Championships at the Denver Coliseum. Three of four teams advanced to the Final 4 in quarterfinal action on Feb. 29.

For the girls, Number 1-seeded Cherokee Trail took on No. 9 Mullen last Thursday afternoon. After a sluggish first half, the Cougars trailed the Mustangs 24-19. CT took over in the second half - paced by a 15-3 run in the third quarter - on the way to a 47-39 victory. It’s the first Final 4 appearance in program history.

“It is a big moment because we haven’t been here,” said Cherokee Trail Head Coach Tammi Statewright. “We’ve been dying to get here, and now we are here. We are just proving that we’re supposed to be here.”

The Cougars were led by junior Delaney Miller with 17 points and junior Madeline Gibbs who poured in 11 in the contest. Gibbs said she and her teammates were told at halftime to relax and play their game.

“We were down, but we knew we were the better team. We just had to execute our offense and pay attention to what we were doing on defense, by doing all the little things right,” Gibbs said. “We really want to pull through and get a championship for our seniors, because it’s the last year for them, and we love them a lot.”

Next, the Cougars (24-2) will try and advance to the championship game as they take on No. 4 Valor Christian at 5:45 p.m. on March 7 at the Coliseum.

In the other 6A girls Elite 8 game, No. 2 Cherry Creek, playing shorthanded, was eliminated by 7th-seeded Regis Jesuit. The final score was Raiders 50, Bruins 44. The Bruins were missing junior point guard Tianna Chambers, who had a season-ending leg injury against Rangeview on February 20. Creek finishes a great season at 21-5.

6A Boys State Hoops: EHS BoysFor the boys, both Elite 8 clubs advanced. Eighth-seeded Eaglecrest took on No. 1 Fruita Monument on Feb. 29. The Raptors played well in the first half, leading by as many as 18 points over the Wildcats. But the ‘Cats battled back in the second half, taking advantage of myriad turnovers by EHS, closing to within three points. The Raptors managed to get stops late when they needed them, surviving with a 61-53 win and the program’s first trip to the Final 4 since 2017.

“I feel relieved,” EHS Head Coach Jarris Krapcha said. “I’ve coached at this stage of the tournament four times and lost the first three, so I think relief is the right word. They (Fruita Monument) played great. Especially when you get down by 18, it’s pretty easy to pack it in, and obviously they didn’t do that. They battled the whole way, so I give them credit.”

EHS was led by junior big man Garrett Barger, who had a team-high 18 points. Barger said Raptor turnovers let the Wildcats back into the game.

“We had to overcome that,” Barger said. “They just started to punch us in the mouth, and we just couldn’t give up after that, and we had to battle through it. We just had to be smarter with the ball. We knew from the beginning that they would be very tough defensively.”

The Raptors (20-6) will take on No. 4 ThunderRidge in a 6A Final 4 contest at 5:45 p.m. on March 8 at the Coliseum.

6A Boys State Hoops: SHHS beats Mountain VistaThe night was capped off with a heart-stopping last-second win by No. 7 Smoky Hill over the 2nd-seeded Mountain Vista Golden Eagles. The final score was Buffaloes 63, Eagles 62. The Buffs erased the sting of being eliminated in the quarterfinals in 2023.

The game was a back-and-forth, closely contested affair all evening. Things looked very bleak for the Buffs after Eagles’ sophomore center Oliver Junker got a layup and the foul to take the lead over Smoky 62-61 with 4.7 seconds to play. SHHS Head Coach Anthony Hardin called timeout to ready his charges.

“We’ve been in those close, last second, last possession situations a lot this year, so we just wanted to get something downhill, something towards the rim, give ourselves an opportunity to make a basket,” Coach Hardin said.

And so it went. Buffs sophomore Carter Basquez rolled the inbounds pass to save time, getting it to junior Lorenzo Contreras, who completed the give-and-go back to Basquez, who swooped through three defenders and banked the soft shot off the glass for the winner with no time left. Game over. Pandemonium ensued. Smoky Hill gets to the Final 4.

“Feels great,” said an elated Basquez. “I mean, losing in the Elite 8 last year, I thought, ‘Got to run, got to score, and just win the game, bro. Just win no matter what.’ I had to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Coach Hardin said his team has more to accomplish.

“It feels good,” he said. “The job is not finished. We have big plans. You know, it’s the first time we’ve been here since 2006. We want to win a couple of basketball games next week as well.”

Smoky Hill (20-6) will first take on No. 6 Valor Christian on Friday at the Coliseum with a 7:15 p.m. opening tip.

5A State Hockey: CCHS vs. Valor Christian5A State Ice Hockey: Cherry Creek falls in the Frozen Four

The Cherry Creek consortium ice hockey team was eliminated in the state semifinals on March 2. The 3rd –seeded Bruins fell to No. 2 Valor Christian 4-1 at South Suburban Sports Complex.

The Bruins got a thrilling second round overtime win earlier in the week over No. 6 Mountain Vista. Senior Dominic Suchkov got the game-winner with a wrist shot on a breakaway at 4:55 of the second overtime stanza to advance to the semis.

Coach Jeff Mielnicki’s charges finish the 2023-24 season at 12-5-4.

Spring Sports: Competition is underway

Practice, scrimmages and contests for district schools in baseball, boys swimming and diving, boys volleyball, girls golf, girls and boys lacrosse, girls soccer, girls tennis, and track and field all began last week. Schedules for all the spring sports will ramp up this week.

Good luck to all district spring sports student athletes!