BY: Jonathan Maness for

LOVELAND – The Class 2A girls basketball semifinals took place Friday at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland. No. 1 Merino and No. 2 Sedgwick County advanced to the championship game, defeating No. 12 Heritage Christian and third-seeded Burlington, respectively.

The two teams are back will return tomorrow to the Budweiser Events Center for the 2A girls’ basketball championship game, which will begin at 4 p.m.

(1) Merino 48, (12) Heritage Christian 36

Top-seeded Merino is heading back to the state championship for the first time since 2002.

The Rams held off a a feisty Heritage Christian squad 48-36 to advance to the 2A girls basketball championship.

“We have a great group,” Merino head coach Daniel Piel said. “They are young, but they do have a lot of experience.”

Many members of the Rams squad were part of the Merino’s volleyball team that won the state in November.

“They know what it takes to win,” Piel said. “I don’t look at them as underclassmen, but as competitors.”

It was a defensive battle from the opening whistle, as both squads struggled to find an open shot. Merino had an early 9-4 advantage thanks to big plays from Kya Piel. The freshman hit a three-pointer and scored a fast-break layup. Sydney Nichols scored five consecutive points for the Eagles to tie the game at nine after the first.

Heritage Christian took control late in the second, Avery Hughes made a pair of free throws and hit a fadeaway jumper to give the Eagles a 20-19 lead at halftime.

Merino adjusted to more of a press defense and that adjustment paid off as Heritage Christian was scoreless for the six minutes of the second half as Merino led 29-25 after three.

The Rams pushed the lead to 39-30 in the fourth and sealed the victory by hitting free throws down the stretch.

Makenna Sutter led all scorers with 16 points, while Kya Piel added 15 and Brooklyn Sutter chipped in 10. Hughes led Heritage Christian with 13.

(2) Sedgwick County 50, (3) Burlington 48

Sedgwick County is making its first trip to the Class 2A state title game after topping Burlington 50-48. The victory sets up a rematch a familiar foe in Merino. The two teams faced earlier this year with Sedgwick County winning 63-54.

“It’s going to be a tough game,” Sedgwick County coach Scott Dille said. “I’m glad it is them; they have made adjustments since the last time we played, and it will be a good game.”

Sedgwick County’s Abigail Dille led all scorers with 23 points, while Kiyarra Williams led Burlington with 20.

Burlington jumped out to an early 9-2 advantage, but Sedgwick County responded back quickly. Dille hit a trey and Lainee Neil scored three points the old fashion way to give the Cougars a 10-9 lead halfway through the first quarter. Dille had a steal and basket to give Sedgwick a 14-13 advantage after the first.
Dille added another trey and basket in the second to push the lead to 24-18 and Kierra Ehnes putback gave Burlington a 25-19 lead at halftime.

Kiyarra Williams was on a terror in the third for Burlington. The sophomore scored 17 points in the quarter, doing most of her work near the basket. She sparked a 7-point run to open the quarter to cut the deficit to three. And then scored eight consecutive points to give Burlington a 40-36 advantage late. Burlington took a 41-39 lead into the fourth.

Coach Dille switched the defense up to zone in the fourth to slow Williams and the adjustment worked as Sedgwick battled back. Allie Bernardt hit a basket to give SCHS a 47-46 lead with 30 seconds left in the contest, and they went on to hang on for the two point win.

1A girls basketball semifinals: Briggsdale, McClave advance to championship game

BY: Jack Carlough

GREELEY — Both of the 1A girls basketball semifinal games came down to the wire on Friday at the University of Northern Colorado’s Bank of Colorado Arena. 

In the opening matchup, No. 3 seed Briggsdale beat No. 2 Flatirons Academy, 45-44, and No. 1 McClave followed with a 43-39 defeat of No. 4 Dove Creek. 

Briggsdale and McClave are now set to battle for the state championship at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. The third-place game between Flatirons Academy and Dove Creek will be played at UNC on Saturday at 11:30 a.m.

(3) Briggsdale 45, (2) Flatirons Academy 44

With about four seconds left in regulation and down one point to Flatirons Academy, Briggsdale junior Jenna Krise hit a go-ahead layup that she likely won’t soon forget. 

Krise’s clutch shot gave her Falcons a 45-44 lead and following an unsuccessful last-chance Flatirons Academy heave, a trip to their second consecutive state title game. Some revenge was earned in the process, too, as the back-to-back defending champion Bison were responsible for Briggsdale’s defeat in last year’s 1A finals showdown. 

Early on, it was a game of runs between the two 1A behemoths. Briggsdale worked a nine-point first-quarter lead but watched it quickly disappear; Flatirons Academy tied things at 20 on an Emily Dehaan three and then continued its solid play to go up 25-21 at halftime. 

Briggsdale senior Brianna Blickem, who was held scoreless in the first half, was ready with an answer and scored all eight of her total points in the third quarter to help her Falcons regain a five-point advantage entering the final quarter. 

Flatirons Academy fought back again, however, and led by three with under two minutes remaining before Briggsdale’s late heroics. 

Krise powered the Falcons with 16 points and senior Macie Klem followed with nine. 

The Bison hit seven 3s on the day and were led by Dehaan’s 15 and Emma Cox’s 14. They’ll now face Dove Creek in the same building on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. in the third-place game. 

2A boys basketball semifinals: Sanford and Wray advance to championship game

BY: Jonathan Maness for

LOVELAND – The Class 2A boys basketball semifinals took place Friday at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland. No. 4 Wray and No. 7 Sanford advanced to the championship game, defeating No. 3 Limon and No. 9 Evangelical Christian, respectively.

The two teams will return tomorrow to the Budweiser Events Center for the 2A boys basketball championship game, which will begin at 7 p.m.

(4) Wray 55, (9) Evangelical Christian 34

Wray led end-to-end to beat Evangelical Christian 55-34 to advance back to the Class 2A boys basketball championship game after missing out last season.
Wray beat Limon 56-50 to win the 2A title in 2021.

“I can’t say enough about this group of kids,” Wray coach Chris Rose said. “They are the reason we are here. Our goal was 8-0 in postseason and right now we are 7-0.”

Rafael Trejo led the way with 20 points for Wray, AB Ruiz chipped in 14. Jared Guest led ECHS with 12.

Wray was a team on a mission in the first half. Ruiz hit a trey to give Wray a 15-5 advantage after the first quarter.

Brock Jones and Guest scored back-to-back baskets for Evangelical to cut the deficit to six, but Wray answered with 10-1 run to push the lead to 15. WHS added baskets from Camden Riggleman and Chris Arambula to take a 33-19 advantage into the half.

WHS didn’t slow down in the second half, Joey Uyemura made a pair of baskets to push the lead to 43-27 after three.

Trejo added six points in fourth to seal the victory for Wray.