Updated: March 16, 2014 at 11:02 am
BOULDER • Mesa Ridge wanted to prove that old adage true, that defense does win championships. Even against a prolific Broomfield team that led Class 4A in scoring and had yet to be challenged this season.
Defense, you win again.
Kylee Shook scored 14 points, Sami Rudd added 11, and Mesa Ridge’s top-ranked defense smothered Broomfield to 26.7-percent shooting, as the Grizzlies completed a perfect season in a 45-41 victory Saturday for the school’s first state championship.
“We’re a team of defense,” said Shook, a sophomore whose Grizzlies (28-0) finished the season allowing an average of 32.4 points. “With the zone we were in, we held them down, and they couldn’t shoot the 3-pointer like they normally do. And they didn’t get their fast break going because we knew that was coming. We just get back on defense and play our game.”
Broomfield (27-1) entered the game averaging 78 points and had yet to play a game decided by single digits. A 57-point output registered on Feb. 4 had accounted for the Eagles’ lowest total of the season.
The Eagles missed 18 of 24 outside shots in addition to all six free throws in the first half, yet still found themselves in a 14-14 tie. Their woes slightly improved with a 15-point third quarter, highlighted by a 6-0 run that brought Broomfield to within 31-29 with 12 seconds left, bringing a rare roar from the grey-and-blue-clad fans.
“Every other day, we’re on, but today was one of those days where we couldn’t hit an outside shot,” Eagles junior guard Nichole Lehrer said. “It’s going to happen. We just picked the worst possible day to do that. Their defensive pressure was great, and we couldn’t find our groove.”
Mesa Ridge hung on without scoring a point over the first 5:37 of the fourth quarter, then Shook broke the drought with a put-back off an offensive rebound that broke a 33-all tie that gave the Grizzlies the lead for good.
Earlier, Rudd scored all 11 of her points in the third quarter after missing all four of her shots in the first half, where the Grizzlies also committed 13 turnovers (22 for the game).
“We made some mistakes, and we don’t usually turn it over that much,” said Rudd, one of six seniors. “We overcame that with scoring, talking on the court and playing good defense. Defense does win championships.”
And because of that defense, a gold ball will proudly be displayed at Mesa Ridge, a school built in 1997 but had yet to claim the top prize in any sport.
Three seasons ago, the Grizzlies fell to Longmont in the state semifinals, then had their undefeated season cut short by eventual state-champion Pueblo South in the 2013 quarterfinals.
On their way to winning that gold ball, Mesa Ridge first had to beat D’Evelyn, last year’s runner-up, in the quarterfinals, then settle a score with Pueblo South five days later. When the Grizzlies took out South on a buzzer-beater on Thursday, they soared into the championship game knowing they could beat anyone.
“I’m not sure anyone believed we’d win it all, especially against a team with so much experience,” Mesa Ridge coach Jeff Beatty said. “Our kids can flat play defense and they showed it. We had lots of confidence coming into this game. We beat two juggernauts coming in, and that prepared us to play who was in front of us, and the confidence we needed to get it done.”