DENVER – The improbable became a reality for the Yuma High School boys’ basketball team Saturday night.

The team everyone counted out as a state title contender walked away as the Class 3A state champions.

Vanguard’s Matty Dessalegn missed a three-pointer from the top right of the key off the back iron at the buzzer, propelling Yuma to a dramatic 55-54 win in the Class 3A state title game at the University of Denver’s Hamilton Gym.

“This is surreal,” Yuma’s Edwin Munoz said. “We were being doubted from the start. We lost a lot of seniors, and this was a whole new team and we proved everyone wrong. We just have an amazing team here. This whole state tournament I kept telling my teammates if we miss a shot, we will get it back on defense and that’s what we did. Defense wins championships.”

Yuma finished its storybook season with a 22-4 record and snared its seventh boys’ basketball title in school history to go with the school’s titles in 1958, 1963, 1981, 2018, 2019, and 2022.

“I’m so proud of you guys,” Yuma coach Dave Sheffield said. “We weren’t supposed to be here and look how strong we were. We won (our last) three games by three total points. It is just incredible. It’s awesome.”

The incredible run by Yuma consisted of one-point decisions over Centauri (35-34) in the Elite 8, and Forge Christian in the semifinals (42-41), setting the stage for more heroics on Saturday night. Vanguard finished its season with a 25-2 record.

As exciting as the game was – the tension was magnified in the final three minutes.

Brody Sheffield, the coach’s son, and Christian Duarte delivered in the clutch, scoring a combined five points, putting the Outlaws ahead 53-50 with 2:30 showing on the clock. JJ Wetters answered to get Vanguard within one at 53-52 with 2:10 left in the game.

After a foul was called, Jonathan Thomson made two free throws putting Yuma up 55-52.

After a turnover by Yuma, Vanguard’s Dessalegn put in the follow shot to cut the Yuma lead to 55-54 with 1:15 remaining.

Then, the two teams swapped turnovers and Munoz had a chance to ice the game when he was fouled and went to the free throw line for two shots. Munoz seemed to be the ideal candidate to send to the line for the Outlaws as he had 21 points on seven 3-pointers.

Munoz, however, only increased the tension when he missed both attempts. Munoz’s second miss was rebounded by Vanguard. Vanguard called timeout with 10.3 seconds on the clock to set up its final play.

Moments later, Yuma was celebrating when Dessalegn’s shot bounced off the back of the rim.

“We weren’t even supposed to be here this year, so this is amazing,” said Brody Sheffield, who finished with 13 points. “Our team is great. In the first quarter, we got our butts kicked (they trailed 23-12), and after halftime, we came out on fire. We got defensive stops, and we made shots. We knew we had to make a defensive stop on that last possession and that’s what we did. I will never forget this year with these guys.”

- Tracy Renck

Cheyenne Wells Wins First State Title in 59 Years

GREELEY – It’s been a long time coming, but the Class 1A boys’ basketball championship is finally returning to Cheyenne Wells.

The No. 2-seeded Tigers secured their first state title crown since 1955 with a 55-36 victory over No. 1 McClave in the title game at Bank of Colorado Arena.

“It means everything,” said Cheyenne Wells coach Kendall Pelton, who is a former player for the Tigers. “I don’t think anybody wanted it more than I did - aside from the players. We came up short a lot. It feels great.”

The Tigers size has been a huge advantage all season, with 6-foot-7 sophomore Corey Hill and 6-foot-5 senior Carson Noe patrolling the paint and that size made scoring a struggle for McClave, which was held to its lowest scoring output of the season.

“They couldn’t have played any better,” Pelton said. “McClave knew everything about us, and we knew everything about them. But we wanted it more and it showed.”
The two squads played twice earlier this season, with both outcomes going into overtime. The Tigers won 61-56 in overtime and then the Cardinals won 47-45 in double-overtime.

“We had more energy,” Noe said. “It was a state championship game and we have been waiting for it all season. We knew we were going to see them in the state championship, because we were the best two teams in the state.”

Noe sealed the victory for the Tigers in the fourth with a steal and breakaway dunk that even surprised the senior.

“I didn’t know how close the guy was,” the senior said. “I thought I jumped from too far away, I was kind of worried. But it all worked out.”

Cheyenne Wells led from the jump and scored the first eight points of the contest and kept McClave scoreless until midway through the first when Conner Forgue hit a trey to cut the lead to 8-3. While Hill and Noe punished the Cardinals in the post, Conrad Ball was making them pay from behind the arc. Hitting a pair of treys to push the advantage to 19-4 after the first quarter.

The Cardinals did put a dent in the second quarter with a pair of treys from Forgue and Ethan Bronniman, but the Tigers just couldn’t be stopped as Noe hit a trey and Cheyenne Wells lead 24-12 at the half.

McClave cut the lead to eight in the third with a basket from Ray Mungaray, free throws from Hill and a basket from Noe pushed the lead back to 24-12.
Forgue led all scorers with 23 points, while Hill led the Tigers with 17 and Noe added 16.