Grand Valley pulls off another upset
PUEBLO – Turns out, landing a high seed in the Class 2A boys basketball state tournament wasn’t such a good thing.Grand Valley, seeded fifth entering the classification’s Great Eight, knocked off top-seeded Evangelical Christian 71-52 at Pueblo Events Center on Friday to earn the Cardinals a shot at the school’s first-ever state championship.”This is a great win for the kids playing so hard all year, for our program, for our community in general,” Grand Valley coach Scott Kiburis said. “Everyone’s really excited.”Burlington, the sixth seed in the bracket, pulled off a little upset magic earlier in the evening, gunning down No. 2 Sanford 49-46.And so it’ll be a title game matching teams desperately striving to shake off sizable title droughts, as Burlington has gone 59 years without a state crown. The Cards (21-4) and Cougars (21-3) tip off at 5:15 p.m. this evening.Grand Valley won every quarter in a game that was supposed to be a cakewalk for Evangelical Christian, led by 6-foot-7 senior Rob Lewis. The Cardinals did what they could against the Eagles’ big man, taking the ball right at him on offense and getting him into foul trouble. Lewis still managed 26 points.”They had a wide zone so we kept taking it to the basket,” Kiburis said. “We were not going to be afraid to take it at him. They were leaving the lanes open to drive and we decided we don’t care if he blocks our shot. We didn’t want to adjust our shots.”Grand Valley won each quarter and picked up steam as the game wore on. They were up two after one (11-9), 10 at halftime (34-24) and 11 after three (55-44) before closing the game out by outscoring the Eagles 16-8 in the fourth.Sam McKinley, who poured in 27 points in the Cardinals’ quarterfinal win over Cripple Creek, netted 23 – hitting five 3-pointers in the process – in what was a balanced offensive effort on Friday. Two joined the senior in double figures, with junior Tyler Jensen netting 14 points and senior Luke Braby 13. Senior Mitch Belden had nine points, sophomore Colton Cowan seven and senior Richard Gallegos added five. Braby nearly missed a double-double with nine rebounds.”Every kid did great,” Kiburis said. “It was an unbelievable team effort.”ECA cut the Grand Valley lead down to eight midway through the fourth, but the Cards hit their free throws in the waning moments to seal the win.At one point in the game, fans began chanting “Western Slope,” making their statement against the perceived state bias against schools situated along the western half of the Rockies.”The fans there today were great,” Kiburis said. “Everyone was cheering for us except the ECA crowd.”
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The Coal Ridge High boys suffered their first 3A Western Slope League loss of the year Thursday night on the road at Gunnison, falling to the defending league champion Cowboys 65-45.