Fans of the Colorado Springs Christian School boys’ basketball team couldn’t help but feel a bit of déjà vu. Heartbreaking and gut-wrenching déjà vu.
For the second time in three seasons, the No. 2-seeded Lions saw their journey through the 3A state tournament come to an abrupt end, with a 51-49 loss to No. 15 Colorado Academy.
Saturday’s setback came almost two years to the day from when the 2010-11 CSCS squad lost a large lead late to No. 15 Jefferson Academy – also at home. The similarities were stunning.
“I was on the bench as a sophomore for that team when we lost to Jefferson Academy here, and right now I’m speechless and I don’t know what to say about this,” said CSCS senior Austin Johnson, who carried the Lions with 19 points.
The game two years ago ended in a 56-50 overtime loss. This time, a freshman guard did CSCS (21-3) in – late in the game – in equally shocking fashion.
After CSCS took a 49-40 lead with 6:35 left, it failed to score again. Colorado Academy (17-7) chipped away and battled the much bigger Lions down the stretch and had the ball in the final 30 seconds, trailing 49-48.
Freshman guard Christian Hyatt hit a 3-pointer from well beyond the line with 15 seconds left. After Johnson got a good look at a winning 3 from the corner that rimmed out, the stunning comeback was complete.
“We stayed composed the whole way and we had experienced three overtime games in a tough league this season, but this one is nice to win,” Hyatt said after silencing the large crowd. “We knew CSCS was a great team, but we hung in there and it went our way.”
CSCS was left looking for answers, much like in 2011. Despite holding a 28-15 rebounding advantage, the Lions allowed the Mustangs back into the game by turning the ball over on seven consecutive possessions in the last 6:35.
For coach Mark Engesser, it was an eerily similar feeling to 2011.
“There is absolutely nobody I’d want shooting that last shot for us than Austin,” a somber Engesser said. “He made five 3s in the game, but the last shot didn’t go down. Sometimes that just happens in basketball and in life.”
The large CSCS contingent waited outside for more than 30 minutes after the game ended to applaud and console their players. It was the exact same scene as March 5, 2011.
Johnson offered some parting words on behalf of the other four seniors.
“This hurts because no high school team trained as hard as we did, but in life it’s not about how you fall, but how you get back up again,” he said.