LOVELAND – One year ago, Burlington’s girls basketball team saw its chances of a state title appearance slip away in the fourth quarter.

Leading by four points against a determined Wiggins team on Friday night in the Class 2A state semifinals at Blue Arena, the Cougars dug their heels in and refused to let history repeat itself. Kiyarra Williams hit two free throws with 90 seconds remaining to give Burlington its final lead, and the team held off the Tigers from there for a 40-38 victory.

Burlington (21-4) will play No. 1 Merino for the 2A championship at 5 p.m. on Saturday at Blue Arena.

“We just knew we were coming,” said Burlington senior Trinitee Holmes, whose team fell 50-48 in the 2023 semis to eventual champion Sedgwick County. “We knew this is our year. We haven’t won a championship since 1936.”

Sophomore Bethany Cure led the Cougars with 16 points. Holmes added 10, including a stretch of five in a row for her team midway through the fourth quarter.

Wiggins (15-10) refused to go away though. A Kennedy Kerr 3-pointer made it 36-36 before Holmes put Burlington up by two with two minutes, 23 seconds remaining. The Tigers tied it up again at 38-38 on two free throws from Aubryn Ferguson, but Williams answered with two foul shots of her own.

Wiggins missed three shots down the stretch and a pair of free throws. Burlington couldn’t add to its lead though, giving the Tigers one last chance. With 2.7 seconds on the clock, Wiggins couldn’t get a shot off.

“We weren’t going to go down without a big fight,” Holmes said. “We don’t give up.”

Kerr paced Wiggins with 13 points and Tyleigh Fehseke added eight. The Tigers led by as many as seven points in the second quarter, but the Cougars’ press led to 15 first-half turnovers.

Burlington hasn’t faced Merino this season. Playing for a championship is new territory for the program, but with two games in two days at Blue Arena already under their belts, the players will be ready.

“We’ve never been there yet, so that will probably be some new nerves that we’re not ready for,” Holmes said. “But I know we’ll get it under control if that happens. We just have to play our game.”

Merino 56, Simla 44

There was just too much of Kya Piel for Simla to handle down the stretch Friday night.

The Merino sophomore poured in 14 of her 18 points over the final eight-plus minutes of the 2A semifinal (that included a buzzer-beater to end the third quarter) as the Rams closed the game strong for a 56-44 victory over the Cubs.

That puts top-seeded Merino (26-0) in the title game for the second year in a row.

The Rams finished the game on a 24-10 run after trailing 34-32 late in the third. Piel and junior Brooklyn Sutter combined for 21 of those points, with Sutter finishing with 11 points.

Simla (17-9) gave the Rams fits for much of the first three quarters, but couldn’t contain Piel. Freshman Carlee Cox led the way for the Cubs with 16 points. She had Simla within two at 40-38 before the Rams scored seven of the next nine points.

Merino hasn’t won a state title since capturing the 1A crown in 2002. A year ago the Rams were also the No. 1 seed, but fell to Sedgwick County by four points in the championship game.