A lot changed in 48 hours.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic one of the state’s biggest weekends in high school sports went from its yearly spectacle, to selected guests, then to nothing at all.
And in the rubble of the cancellation of the 2020 state basketball tournament is 40 basketball teams left without a proper end to their seasons, including two Pikes Peak region squads that were on the brink of making history.
In Class 4A The Classical Academy boys were set to play in the program’s first final four appearance against a well-matched opponent in Pueblo West.
St. Mary’s was well on its way to winning a third straight 3A state championship on the backs of a senior class that accumulated a career record of 97-7.
While TCA's and St. Mary’s chances at hoisting a state championship trophy were shattered late Thursday night, their accomplishments cannot go unnoticed.
Each year we celebrate the teams that win their final postseason winners' bracket game, and despite the circumstances, this year is no different. Therefore, Gazette Preps will recognize The Classical Academy as the area boys' champions and St. Mary’s as the girls’ basketball champions.
That leaves 38 other teams across the state who had hopes of earning the title ‘champions.’ So now, it’s the Colorado High School Activities Association's turn.
“These kids work so hard during the season, and I want CHSAA to award co-championships to the four teams left in all of the tournaments,” said St. Mary’s coach Mike Burkett. “They should give them some sort of recognition and I would hope they would want to be compassionate enough to reward all of the kids.”
TCA entered the 2020 state tournament having never ‘gotten over the hump’ to earn a postseason win. But that changed this year as the No. 11 Titans defeated Mitchell in the state’s second round and went on to upset the No. 6 and No. 3 seeds to earn a spot in the state semifinals.
“We had an incredible season and it was something special,” said TCA coach Leo Swiontek. “It’s too bad it ended up this way.”
St. Mary’s continued its well-renowned dominance in 3A for the third straight year with the team’s only loss coming from 5A semifinalist Cherry Creek. The Pirates averaged more than a 40-point margin over opponents this season and outscored teams 206-76 through the postseason.
“This is a unique team in that they personify excellence in so many ways both on and off the court, they’ve accomplished so many different things,” Burkett said. “And I hope that perception remains that they compete at a high degree of excellence.”
Despite the heartache that 40 teams across the state undoubtedly felt when news that the state basketball tournaments were canceled, it highlights the importance of one of the oldest sports cliches out there: Play every game like it’s your last.
Burkett said in one of his many talks with his team after news broke late Thursday night a player said, “If I had known that was my last high school game, I would have done it differently.”
The 40 teams slated to play this weekend in their classification's state semifinals are:
Class 1A girls — Springfield, Shining Mountain, South Baca and Cotopaxi.
Class 1A boys — Kit Carson, Briggsdale, Walsh and Mile High Academy.
Class 2A girls — Limon, Del Norte, Sanford and Holyoke.
Class 2A boys — Highland, Wray, Yuma and Limon.
Class 3A girls — St. Mary’s, Pagosa Springs, Eaton and Centauri.
Class 3A boys — Resurrection Christian, Manual, Sterling and Faith Christian.
Class 4A girls — Mullen, Berthoud, Holy Family and Green Mountain.
Class 4A boys — Mead, Northfield, Pueblo West and The Classical Academy.
Class 5A girls — Valor Christian, Grandview, Cherry Creek and Highlands Ranch.
Class 5A boys — Rangeview, Grandview, Fairview and Valor Christian.