Team concept powered boys to another title
It would be hard to argue that a basketball squad embodies the team concept better than the Yuma High School boys.
The Indians claimed their second straight Class 2A championship, last weekend in Loveland, simply by being better up and down the roster.
Sure, the Indians have 6-foot-8 senior Jake Chrisman, who most likely will continue his career at the next level, but it was everybody doing what was required of them for the Indians to earn the program’s fifth state championship.
“We didn’t have to rely on one person because there were a variety of people who injected themselves into tight situations for us,” coach Dave Sheffield said.
The Indians faced gut-check moments throughout their three days in the Budweiser Events Center at The Ranch. They came through every time, just like in the 23 games leading up to the state tournament.
“They really embody what a team is,” Sheffield said.
Yuma finished 24-2, going 49-4 over the past two seasons, after winning 12 games combined in the previous two.
Remaining committed to working hard in the summer, and having some pretty good players, have helped turn it around. Sheffield noted that now when players gather for pickup games in the gym, they automatically start running “our stuff” without any prompting from the coaches.
“To me that’s when it’s clicking and you’re off and running,” he said. “You’re not building anymore.”
The Indians were back in the big building by the Larimer County Fairgrounds last Thursday for a quarterfinal against seventh-seed Denver Christian.
The Thunder threw everyone at Chrisman when he got the ball inside, and the Indians at first struggled to capitalize, including missing four straight free throws.
However, the Indians started to click as 6-foot-5 junior Chase McCreath started getting to the basket, and senior Steven Wells knocked down a three for a 13-7 lead in the second. The Thunder stuck around, though, trailing 17-13 at halftime, and getting to within 21-20 in the third. The game was tied when the Indians closed the third on an 8-0 run, punctuated by freshman Clay Robinson’s 3-pointer.
A Chrisman bucket gave Yuma a 41-29 lead midway through the fourth, but Denver Christian went on a 7-1 run to get within 42-36.
However, that was as close as the Thunder would get as the Indians iced away a 47-38 win in the final minutes.
Chrisman and Robinson ended up getting their points, 17 and 14 respectively, but it was McCreath who kept the Indians afloat early, finishing with 10.
“They were doubling our post so it gave me a lot of looks, so a shout-out to Jake,” he said after the game, referring to Chrisman dropping him some nice passes.
Yuma shot only 35.4 percent, but Denver Christian shot just 25.5 percent, and the Indians dominated the boards 45-32.
Chrisman finished with a double-double as he also had 11 rebounds along with six blocks. McCreath also had a double-double with 12 rebounds, along with three assists. Robinson added to the double-doubles with 10 rebounds along with two assists. Steven Wells had three points, two rebounds and two assists, Jonathan Rascon three points and two rebounds, and Rolando Caraveo one rebound and one steal.
All the top seeds won in the quarterfinals, including third-seed Fowler rolling past sixth-seed Byers 76-61.
That set up a fun semifinal on Friday between the Indians and the Grizzlies.
Chrisman came out scoring early, and Wells drained a 3-pointer for a 12-2 lead. The Indians hit a dryspell, including several bad possessions, but still led 21-14 at halftime.
The pace picked up in the third as Yuma opened up a 37-27 lead.
However, the Grizzlies were not going anywhere as they opened the fourth on a 13-3 run, with a 3-pointer tying the game at 40 with 5 minutes, 11 seconds left.
The Indians, like they have all season, immediately answered as Wells hit a trey, Robinson converted an old-school 3-point play, and Chrisman hit a free throw for a 47-40 lead.
Fowler got back to within three, 50-47, off a steal and layup with 1:31 left. The Indians, though, never flinched, holding on for a 56-47 win.
“Fowler had a lot of threats, good size, good skills and they could shoot,” Sheffield said. “We went on a 16-7 run to finish These guys didn’t blink.”
Chrisman had another double-double with 20 points and 16 rebounds, but acknowledged that the win did not come easily.
“It was a dogfight for 32 minutes,” he said. “I give a shout-out to that team. They never stopped fighting. It was a battle the whole game. Whenever we got up, they’d find a way to climb right back in…When a game gets close we know it’s time to step up. We know what we need to do to keep the lead or extend it. It all starts on defense for us. We lock down on defense, get the ball, we value the ball then we try to score.”
Robinson had 16 points, making 10 of 13 free throws, along with eight rebounds and five assists. Wells hit four 3-pointers for 12 pints along with five rebounds and two assists. McCreath had five points, six rebounds and three assists, Rascon three points and one assist, and Caraveo one rebound.
Fourth-seed Highland knocked off top-seed Holly in the other semifinals, meaning Yuma would have to beat the Huskies on Saturday to claim another state title.
The Indians came out ready, running out to an 11-4 lead. A McCreath bucket off a Chrisman pass, a Chrisman jumper, and two buckets by Robinson staked Yuma to a 21-11 advantage at halftime.
Yuma continued to control the tempo in the third, leading by as much as 13 before settling for a 32-20 lead heading into the fourth.
The game picked up in intensity as the Huskies desperately tried to get back into the game, getting as close as eight two times in the final 3:45. Things got a little chippy by the Huskies as it became apparent Yuma was not going to wilt.
The Indians kept their composure, though, and could hold their heads high as repeat champions as they closed out the 52-39 win.
Yuma controlled the boards 44-33 and recorded 14 assists to just four for the Huskies.
Chrisman, clearly the best player in the 2A tournament, had another double-double with 17 points and 14 rebounds, along with four assists and three blocks. Robinson, clearly the best freshman in 2A, had 14 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks, McCreath, next year’s senior leader, had nine points, four rebounds and four assists, Rascon six points, four rebounds and three assists, Wells five points and five rebounds, Alex Morales one point and one rebound during a key stretch off the bench late in the game, and Caraveo, who missed much of the season to injury, one steal.
“Any state championship is incredible,” Sheffield said. He now has five as a head coach, including three 1A titles at Hi-Plains. “It’s incredible to see a group of guys reach a goal.”