St. Mary’s coach Jim Masterson has been waiting 49 years for a chance to compete for a state title.
But the Pirates’ boys’ basketball program has been waiting even longer.
Thursday St. Mary’s made history, clinching a come-from-behind rivalry win over Manitou Springs 73-68 in the Class 3A boys’ semifinals for a trip to the program’s first state title game in 60 years.
“In due time you will reap if you faint not,” said Masterson, quoting Galatians 6:9. “You’re in this business to impact the lives of the players but you always have that goal of winning a state championship and after 49 years you're just kind of like, it’s now finally coming true. We got to a state championship – yet to be seen if we can win it, but we got there.”
St. Mary’s won state championships in 1934 and 61, before joining the Colorado High School Activities Association in 1963. Saturday will mark the program’s first-ever CHSAA state championship appearance.
The No. 1 Pirates will face No. 2 Lutheran for the state championship on Saturday at the Broadmoor World Arena. The Lions (15-1) earned a come-from-behind win in overtime over No. 3 Sterling for a shot at the state title. Lutheran overcame a 13-point deficit in the third quarter to eventually win in extra time.
St. Mary’s also had a third-quarter comeback against Manitou Springs. The Pirates faced a nine-point deficit at halftime, but began to close the gap in the third quarter.
St. Mary’s, which operates at lightning speed and loves to trap, began forcing turnovers and turned the game into a track meet in the second half.
“They were just really solidly locking us up on defense in the first half, we weren't really ready but we came out in the second half just firing on all cylinders,” said junior Sam Howery, who led the team with 16 points. “We got the momentum once we started pressing and getting turnovers, and then just making our shots. We needed to settle in and make our shots and we knew we’d be fine.”
St. Mary’s cut the deficit late in the third and entered the fourth quarter trailing No. 4 Manitou Springs by six.
Just one minute and 30 seconds into the fourth quarter, St. Mary’s closed the gap off a layup by Andon Mindrup, and took a 62-60 lead thanks to Cyrus Hernandez.
Manitou Springs scored two quick baskets thanks to Lars Marquardt and Lairden Rogge, but St. Mary’s followed with an eight-point run to put the game on ice.
“It was a gutsy win,” said senior Luke Stockelman. “It was something we needed, I think. It really showed our heart and the strength of this team.”
St. Mary’s is the highest-scoring team in the state, averaging 89.9 points per game, and defeats teams by an average of 37 points. But Thursday’s semifinal was one of the closest battles the Pirates have had to face yet.
“This game is going to push us right forward,” Howery said. “Getting our best game of the season right at the end, we will be ready for the championships. We got one more and we still have unfinished business. We are really hyped about this win but we still have one more to go, that’s it.”
No. 1 Vanguard girls’ upset by No. 4 Lutheran
Vanguard held a three-point lead after the first quarter of its 3A semifinal game, but the tides quickly changed for the Coursers, as No. 4 Lutheran found a spark, outscoring Vanguard 16-4 in the second quarter. The Lions won 48-40.
Trailing by 10 heading into the final frame, Vanguard attempted to close the gap, but ran out of time, ending the team’s historic run season 15-1.
No. 3 Peyton boys’ falls to No. 2 Limon in 2A semifinal
No. 2 Limon jumped to a fast start against No. 3 Peyton in the Class 2A semifinals, taking a 33-15 lead in the first half before defeating the Panthers 60-38.
Gavin Miller led the Panthers with 14 points and Gibson Gellerman had 12 as Peyton’s season ends with a 13-2 record.