Yuma makes hoops history with back-to-back title sweeps
The rising roar from the sea of red punctuated the history being made on the court inside the Budweiser Events Center at The Ranch, last Saturday night.
Yuma High School’s girls basketball had claimed its second straight Class 2A championship about 90 minutes earlier.
And now the YHS boys team was doing the same, putting the finishing touches on a historical moment in Colorado preps basketball.
Back to back, back to back.
Never before had a Colorado high school, in any classification, swept the boys and girls titles two seasons in a row.
Now the Yuma community is the sole owner of such a fantastic accomplishment.
“It’s kind of unreal to be the first school to do that,” girls coach Bob Rahm said. “Pretty awesome.”
“It was a really cool night,” boys coach Dave Sheffield said. “To have both teams go back-to-back is really something special.”
There were plenty of witnesses, too, as Yumans (current and former residents) flooded into the events center all three days of the 2A tournament, particularly for championship Saturday.
Sheffield had told CHSAANow.com’s Nick Jurvey after the game that “You could rob the bank in Yuma right now…Everyone is here.”
Rahm told Jurvey “…it is so awesome to live in Yuma, Colorado.”
Yuma can definitely can make the claim to the “Titletown” moniker.
YHS has won seven state titles since the 2015 fall season — three in girls basketball, two in boys basketball and two in volleyball. The girls have won three hoop championships in four seasons, and also have three state runner-up efforts in basketball, and three more in volleyball, over the past seven years.
Last Saturday’s win over Swink cemented the girls’ feat of sweeping the volleyball and basketball titles in the same school year for the second time in four season, the first coming in 2015-16.
“It’s exciting. It’s what Yuma (girls sports) does, so it’s cool to live up to that,” senior Cody Robinson said during the state tournament.
The Yuma boys program actually resurrected the Yuma hoops tradition with a successful run from 2005-06 season through 2014-15. However, the Indians never could capture that elusive state title, in part because YHS was in Class 3A for the first six years.
Now the boys are catching up. After combining for 12 wins in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, the Indians finally won the program’s first state title since 1981 last season, and added another championship trophy to the ever-more-crowded case in the YHS Commons this season. The boys are 49-4 over the last two campaigns, 24-2 this season. (YHS girls basketball now has four state titles in the “modern” era, while the boys have five.)
“They really embody what a team is,” Sheffield said. “They have great unity, just like last year’s team, which is a what a good team has. They executed their roles on the team very well. They stayed within that.”
Rahm also stressed the importance of unity for success, saying: “It’s just a good group of girls that stuck together as a team. That’s what you need to do to win championships.”
While the Yuma teams combined for 47 wins this season — the girls went 23-3 — it was not exactly always smooth sailing.
The Yuma girls, fresh off an undefeated championship season, lost their first two games in December, including a season-opening loss to rival Wray.
“A lot of people were counting us out,” Rahm said. “…You don’t win a championship the first of December. You might have a mid-season loss, which is not a bad thing because it gives you something to work on. You want to win at the end.”
Part of it was due to injury to senior Chasey Blach. Another part of it was besides Robinson and Blach, the rest of the lineup was acclimating itself to bigger roles in the varsity lineup.
The Indians recovered to win eight straight, including avenging the earlier loss to Wray with a 40-38 win on Robinson’s buzzer-beater in January. They then ran into a strong Sidney, Nebraska, team on January 19, in The Pit. Rahm said that when looking at the schedule before the season, he figured the Sidney game would the toughest. That it was as the Red Raiders left town with a 30-27 win, though Rahm said he believes the Indians would have won that game if Robinson would not have been sick.
“We said after that one that we weren’t going to lose again,” the coach said.
That proved to be true as they won their last 15 games.
Yuma’s boys opened the season 10-0, setting a program-record 30-game winning streak dating back to the last 20 games in the previous season.
However, they stumbled against a three-win Sidney team in The Pit, then lost 10 days later again in The Pit to another Nebraska team, the Chase County Longhorns. “I can’t figure out what it is about Nebraska teams,” Sheffield mused earlier this week.
However, they rebounded to win their last 13 games.
There were several gut-check moments throughout the season, but the Indians always responded. Their 24 wins included three in overtime — including one against Byers in which 6-foot-8 senior Jake Chrisman did not play in the first half due to injury, and a double overtime win in the regular-season finale at Haxtun. Both were state tournament teams, Byers in 2A and Haxtun in 1A.
“They were really calm through all the tough sections,” Sheffield said. “They didn’t flinch.”
Both YHS teams went to The Bud last week as the second seeds in their respective tournaments, and with designs on winning more state titles.
It began Thursday afternoon with the girls taking the court for the 4 p.m. quarterfinal against seventh-seed Heritage Christian.
The Indians romped to a 54-19 victory. It was so dominating the running clock rule went into effect in the fourth quarter with Yuma leading by more than 35.
“You probably won’t see the running clock very often in a state quarterfinal,” Rahm said.
The boys followed, and had their difficulties before finally prevailing 47-38 over seventh-seed Denver Christian.
However, the whole idea is to just win and move on.
The Yuma crowd grew even bigger for Friday’s semifinals, filling the seats behind the Yuma bench.
The girls were first again. The Indians were the only higher-seed to win in the quarterfinals, setting up a semifinal against sixth-seed Del Norte, which had knocked off third-seed Meeker on Thursday.
Del Norte looked to be a formidable challenge, but great defense and efficient offensive execution paced the Tribe to a 51-35 win.
Meanwhile, all the top seeds on the boys side had won in the quarterfinals, setting up Yuma with a showdown with third-seed Fowler, which had convincingly beat Byers the day before.
It again was a battle, with the teams tied at 40 early in the fourth. However, the Indians once again answered the bell, closing the game on a 16-7 run for a 56-47 win.
The dream of back-to-back girls and boys state championships remained alive.
With the promise of a history-making night on tap, the Yuma crowd swelled even more, filling several sections from the front row to the rafters with red-clad supporters.
They definitely did not leave disappointed.
Once again the Yuma girls were up first. Ironically, after cruising in their first two games, the Indians struggled early against fifth-seed Swink, which had upset fourth-seed Wray in the quarterfinals, then beat eighth-seed Sanford in the semifinals.
Yuma scored only three points in the first quarter, but Swink scored only six. The teams were tied at 14 at halftime. However, it was all Yuma after that as the Indians methodically pulled again in the second half for a 41-25 win.
That set off a Yuma celebration.
“It was nice to see the community support,” Rahm said. “Once we started hitting shots, being on the court and hearing how loud the cheering was, it gave you goosebumps.”
However, there was still one more win to get in order to make Colorado preps hoops history.
The boys took the court against fourth-seed Highland, which had knocked off top-seed Holly in the semifinals.
After struggling in the first two games, it was the boys’ turn to come out hot.
The Indians led from start to finish, leading 21-11 at halftime and 32-20 after three quarters. Highland cut the margin to eight in the fourth, and got a little chippy as the intensity grew, but the Indians never lost control while on their way to a 52-39 win.
With history in the books, the Yuma teams, student section and fans, really let loose with the celebrating.
“There was a lot of red up there,” Sheffield said. “It was a great crowd. I want to thank everyone who supported us.”
The Yuma girls are now 17-4 in state tournament games over the past seven seasons. Three losses came in the championship game (2013, 2014 and 2015) and the other came in the semifinals. The girls have three state titles, three runner-ups and one third place during that span.
The boys are 6-0 in the Great 8 over the past two seasons.
Sheffield now has five state championships as a boys head coach. The first three came at Hi-Plains in 1A. He also coached Hi-Plains to two 6-man football state titles.
Rahm, a YHS alum who played in the state tournament himself in 1985, now has four state tournaments appearances in six seasons as a YHS head coach. He was the boys head coach for three years, with one state tournament, and has coached the girls the past three seasons, going 72-7 during that span with two titles and one third place.
YHS went 98-8 during this year’s seniors four years of high school, with three state titles and the third place. Cody Robinson was part of the rotation her freshman year during the 2016 championship, and has been a varsity starter and leading scorer the last three seasons. Chasey Blach has started the past three seasons, Viri Escobar has been a part of the varsity rotation since her sophomore year, and Lisa Bustillos worked her way up and saw time as a senior.
The YC loves winter
While Yuma made history with its back to back, back to back, Yuma County also might have made history as the Wray High School wrestling team won its second straight 2A championship last month, meaning Yuma County has swept the 2A winter sports championships for two straight years.
Plus, the Wray girls reached the 2A tourney for the fourth straight year, beating Heritage Christian for the consolation championship. The Eagles have a second, third, fourth and fifth during that span.