DENVER — With 1 minute, 51 seconds left, Mesa Ridge’s 6-foot-1 senior Trei Ginn skied for a one-handed jam to the delight of a legion of Grizzlies fans at the Denver Coliseum.
The impressive dunk served as the ultimate exclamation point for second-seeded Mesa Ridge’s 79-52 win over third-seeded Windsor in the semifinals of the Class 5A boys basketball state semifinals.
In reality, the game was in the bag much earlier, thanks largely to the work the Grizzlies did later.
Mesa Ridge was razor-sharp late in each of the four quarters, creating most of its separation during the final one or two minutes of each period.
Windsor’s Madden Smiley shows his disappointment near the end of the game against Mesa Ridge on Saturday March 10, 2023.(Jim Rydbom/Staff Photographer)
The Grizzlies turned defense into high-flying, fast-break offense, converting uncharacteristic Wizards turnovers into immediate points on the other end of the court.
“When we turn them over, they recover really well — we weren’t able to capitalize on that,” Windsor coach Jon Rakiecki said. “And they’re not super fast-paced, but they sure capitalized on any turnovers we had. And we had 18 of them tonight. That obviously led to easy buckets on their end.
“It was tough for us tonight. Nothing seemed to go our way.”
Windsor’s David Hageman, left leans into a shot against Mesa Ridge’s Cypus Woodley while playing at the Denver Coliseum on Saturday March 10, 2023. Windsor lost 53-39 to end their season.(Jim Rydbom/Staff Photographer)
While Mesa Ridge remained undefeated (27-0) and advanced to a finals matchup with top-seeded Air Academy (25-2) at 7:15 p.m. Saturday at the Denver Coliseum, the Wizards wrapped up their season at 22-5.
Windsor led, briefly, late in the second quarter. And the Grizzlies had a mere 31-29 advantage at halftime.
However, the Wizards didn’t maintain contact much beyond that, as Mesa Ridge used its high-powered transition game to outscore Windsor 22-10 in the decisive third quarter and 48-23 in the second half.
“We had a lot of breakdowns that we shouldn’t have, especially at the start of the third quarter,” Windsor senior swingman David Hageman said. “They did great. But a lot of it came down to our breakdowns.”
Windsor’s Tanner Garcia drives to score while playing against Mesa Ridge on Saturday night March 10, 2023.(Jim Rydbom/Staff Photographer)
Hageman led the Wizards with 22 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out with 2:13 left.
Hageman went down swinging, as did his Windsor teammates, even though the final result didn’t exactly go the Wizards’ way.
“This senior group has carried us and led us, not just this year but last year, as well,” Rakiecki said. “It was a really enjoyable team to be around all season. We’re kind of numb right now. We didn’t play our best game tonight. Bad night tonight, great season. We can’t let a bad night take away from the accomplishments of this senior group and this team.”
Bobby Fernandez covers high school sports for the Greeley Tribune. Reach him at (970) 392-4478, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BobbyDFernandez.
This article was originally published in Greeley Tribune