DENVER – It’s tough to describe the way that Bryce Riehl thrives on a competitive environment. So much so that when he comes out on the winning side, he’s as calm and collected as anyone can be.

Competitors compete and winners win.

Bryce Riehl and the Mesa Ridge Grizzlies have been competitors and winners all year and it showed during a tight second half when held off Windsor to get a 57-53 win and claim their second straight Class 5A boys basketball championship.

And they won it on the back of a defensive mindset that has powered them all season long.

“I was at practice yesterday and a buddy of mine was watching. We had scheduled 30 minutes of defense and I went over after 40 minutes and said ‘I’m still on defense, aren’t I,'” coach Joel Babbitt said. “He just laughed at me because he know’s that’s what we do.”

He might’ve turned the extra 10 minutes into 20 if he had known how the game would start. The Wizards didn’t make their first field goal of the game until there was 1 minute, 10 seconds left in the first quarter. They went 4-for-20 as a team for the entire first half.

That includes going 1-for-11 from 3-point range, all the while everything seemed to be falling for the Grizzlies (26-2 overall).

Even if Babbitt and his team runs long on defense at practice, the offense doesn’t seem to suffer.

(Dan Mohrmann/

“We focus on everything in practice,” Bryce Riehl said. “We have intense focus on everything we do and everything that goes along with it.”

Like last year’s title game, Riehl put together a stellar performance. He scored a game-high 30 points, was 11-for-11 form the free throw line and also grabbed 12 rebounds. In just his junior year, he had the top performance in the biggest game.

Zander Iwanski added 13 points and knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the first half that helped the Grizzlies build a 31-16 lead at halftime.

The Wizards battled back with Madden Smiley scoring seven points early in the third quarter to give his team its first bit of momentum.

Shots started falling and the bounces that weren’t going Windsor’s way in the first two quarters were suddenly changing course and feeding that momentum.

“We knew it was a tough matchup,” Babbitt said. “Beyond that, they run great stuff with some back cuts and screening action. We couldn’t get through a ton of screens all day.”

Twice the Wizards got it within three points and a John Backhaus layup even made it 51-50 with 1:24 left. But the Grizzlies chewed up clock and Riehl got to the free throw line where he had been deadly all game. This team carried the championship mindset that they discovered last year and realized they still had when they beat Palmer on a buzzer-beater early in the season.

“There was some belief [that we found],” Babbitt said. “We all knew we were good and we knew Palmer was loaded. Eric [Trujillo] does a great job with Palmer and to be able to get them in that game made us realize we could be really good this year.”

Which is almost a foregone conclusion with both Bryce and Tevin Riehl on the roster with great supplemental pieces in Iwanski and Tanner Widic.

Bryce and Tevin shared more than one embrace after the final, letting the reality of winning two titles together sink in.

“The Riehl’s are legit,” Bryce said.

With two championship trophies with their name on them, they’re certainly the Riehl deal.

(Doug Ottewill/