COMMERCE CITY – Trying to decide a winner between Continental League rivals ThunderRidge and Rock Canyon felt like a season-long – and then some – process.

The two teams tied when they met in the regular season. Meeting in the Class 5A girls soccer state championship game meant there had to be a winner, but a lightning storm delayed the start of the game by 45 minutes.

In the 28th minute of the game, Reese Clem provided one last lightning strike at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park when her shot from the top of the box got over the outstretched hand of Rock Canyon keeper Jasper Lorenz. It was that strike put the Grizzlies (16-3-1 overall) ahead and and with a 1-0 win, put the state championship trophy in their possession.

It’s a good thing the goal came before a stoppage as a nagging back injury was flaring up and a sub was ready to get Clem off the field.

“My back cramps up a lot and I needed to go off,” she said. “But the ball just came to me and thought that I need to do something with this, so I just shot and I was surprised it went in.”

With a one-goal lead in hand, the Grizzlies fanbase watch in awe during the second half as keeper Becca Winton turned away shot after shot, three of them in spectacular fashion. The first came on a free kick given to the Jaguars (11-6-2) after a yellow card was given to Abby Stassi.

Sam Luft took the kick, trying to go top-shelf, but Winton knocked the ball over the net, sending the ThunderRidge fans into a craze.

“That first touch is everything,” Winton said. “It’s just everything.”

In all, she turned away nine Rock Canyon shots on the night, but when the tale of ThunderRidge’s first girls soccer championship in 21 years is told, it will be the three spectacular saves in the second half that make the performance truly legendary.

“That’s how she in practice,” Grizzlies coach Mike Parsons said. “I tell her not to dive and she’ll say ‘Ok coach’ and then dive. It’s always technically correct and it’s always full out [effort]. That’s how she practices and that’s how she plays.”

The path to the state championship was anything but easy for the Grizzlies. They had a quarterfinal matchup with No. 2 Broomfield which they won 1-0 and then beat Fairview 2-0 in the semifinals to reach the state title game.

That’s not to say that Rock Canyon took the easy road. The Jaguar beat No. 1 Fossil Ridge 3-2 before getting by Pine Creek to reach the semis. They needed penalty kicks, but beat Heritage in the semifinal. This game always had a main event feel, even if the seeds tried to say it was a mid-card battle.

“We lost a couple games early on,” Parsons said. “I mean, Fossil Ridge we got our (butts) kicked 6-1. Half our team was gone. Then we won a couple and then lost to Legend and Regis. We’re now unbeaten in 15 straight games. We changed our formation, went double-pivot and we’ve been dominant ever since.”

ThunderRidge is now 4-0 all-time in state championship games. They won three titles in a span of four years starting in 1999.

After that big loss to Fossil Ridge, this moment felt like a bit of a pipe dream for the Grizzlies.

“I didn’t really think we were going to go this far,” Clem said. “But we did. It’s great. I’m so excited.”