There’s something about losing in the championship game, then going through another year to return.
Ask Evergreen’s Cougars. They did just that heading into Saturday’s Class 4A girls final against Pueblo South at the Denver Coliseum.
It was a journey mentally and physically. There was the immediate aftermath of losing to two-time champion and fellow Jefferson County League member Valor Christian in the 2016 final. The long, rest of the school year. The summer. The resumption of classes. The fall. The start of practice, pre-holiday games, coming back from the break, getting into league play … indeed, the Cougars went through it all with a collective one thing on their minds.
And it was worth it.
After a long year of being runner-up in 4A, Evergreen broke through and won its first girls basketball title, 45-35 over a stubborn Pueblo South on a gloomy Saturday afternoon. However, he Cougars finished 25-3 and enjoyed every bit of it.
“It was awesome,” Evergreen junior Baylee Galan-Browne said. “What a way to go out!”
Like every one of her teammates, Galan-Browne said, “absolutely, we knew what it felt like to finish second and have to wait for another chance.) I just said, ‘I am not going through that again, not at all.’”
They didn’t. The Cougars grabbed the early lead, held it, fended off assorted moves by the Colts and were taxed.
This one had a definitive pattern — Evergreen would pull away from Pueblo South, which also finished 25-3, only to have the Colts claw back. They did it twice in the first half, both at the end of quarters as Evergreen led 25-19 and probably felt it should have been leading by more. The Cougars seemed to do the majority of the work, only to have Pueblo South manage to keep it close.
The Colts also stayed within range through the third quarter as fifth-year Cougars coach Amy Bahl said “I knew they would because (the Colts) are such a good team.”
Ultimately, Galan-Browne and Claudia Dillon were difference-makers with 11 points each. Dillon, a sophomore, added 13 rebounds.
Keigan Drysdale added eight and Evergreen overcame 1-of-8 shooting form behind the 3-point line as well as making only 10-of-19 free throws.
But the only number that mattered to the Cougars was 1, as in their perch atop 4A.
“You plan and train for this the whole year, then it just came true,” a happy Bahl said.
Gabi Lucero led Pueblo South with 10 points and seven rebounds, but the Colts shot only 13-of-42, 31 percent, and made just 6-of-19 3-pointers.
Galan-Browne, who played sparingly a year ago and was instrumental throughout 2016-17, knows what she has in mind for next season. And this off-season will be a lot easier to deal with than the previous one.
“It’s an amazing way to go out,” she said.
Evergreen 11 14 8 12 — 45
Pueblo South 10 9 7 9 — 35
Evergreen — K. Drysdale 3 0-2 8, Schreiber 0 2-4 2, Kennedy 1 1-3 4, Galan-Browne 5 1-2 11, Hahn 4 1-1 9, Dillon 4 3-3 11. Totals 17 10-19 45.
Pueblo South — Kochen 0 0-2 0, Sandford 0 0-0 0, Nelson 1 1-2 3, Guarienti 2 0-0 6, Gierhart 1 0-0 3, Austin 3 0-0 9, Kraus 0 0-0 0, Leigh 1 2-2 4, Lucero 5 0-0 10. Totals 13 3-6 35.
3-pt. goals — Kennedy; Austin 3, Gaurienti 2, Gierhart. Fouled out– None. Technicals — None.