DENVER – No current player on the Highland boys basketball team was alive when the Huskies last won a state championship in 2000.

But in the Class 3A Great 8 on Thursday at the University of Denver’s Hamilton Gymnasium, this year’s Huskies certainly looked like a team that could be capable of winning their program’s first title in nearly 25 years. The fourth-seeded Huskies jumped out to an early lead and never slowed down throughout an 83-35 win over No. 21 SkyView Academy.

“We just came out and wanted it more, I guess,” senior Hyatt Tolle said. “We were excited to play. I just think if we all play together and play well, good things will happen. We always had the goal of winning state, but we just came out and played every night. Now we’re here.”

The Huskies opened the game on a 9-0 run and had a 23-8 lead by the end of the first quarter. They led 43-22 at halftime and held the Hawks to 13 total points in the second half while cruising to victory and into the Final 4.

“We have a saying that we live by and it’s, ‘Cool, calm, confident,’” Highland coach Pete Freeman said. “If we’re cool, calm and confident, we think we play our game, we think we’re going to be tough to beat and we’re going to be in every game. We try not to overthink things and we try not to make things difficult on ourselves. We’re just kind of a simple team.”

The Huskies (22-3) have four players – Tolle, Carson Steinke, Sawyer Morgan and Colton Steinke – averaging in double figures this season, and they spread the scoring around again on Thursday. Tolle scored a team-high 16 points, Morgan had 15, Carson Steinke had 13 and Jacob Wares finished with 12. Rowdy Watson and Hayden Rohn each scored eight points for the Patriot League champions.

Searching for their program’s first state title, the Hawks (16-9) got a team-high nine points from junior Jesus Aguirre. Isaac Dove and Matt Fann each scored eight points.

Highland will take on No. 1 Faith Christian in the semifinals at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.

(2) Salida 59, (23) The Pinnacle 32

It has been nearly six decades since the Salida boys basketball team won a state championship and the Spartans are now just two more wins away from ending that lengthy dry spell.

On Thursday at the University of Denver’s Hamilton Gymnasium, the second-seeded Spartans (24-1) won 59-32 over No. 23 The Pinnacle (16-9). The Class 3A Great 8 victory pushed the Spartans into the Final Four.

The Spartans led 29-22 at halftime before turning up the defense in the second half. Holding The Pinnacle, the tournament’s lowest remaining seed in the Great 8, to just 10 points after halftime, an 18-4 third quarter allowed the Spartans to pull ahead for good.

Tristan Jackson and Chase Diesslin each had 16 points for Salida.

The Pinnacle is still chasing its program’s first state title.

Salida will face No. 6 Windsor Charter in the Final Four at 8:30 p.m. on Friday.

(1) Faith Christian 72, (9) Yuma 49

Faith Christian has been putting up the points in bunches since the postseason began, and the Eagles continued their torrid scoring in the Class 3A Great 8 on Thursday.

Facing No. 9 Yuma (18-6) at the University of Denver’s Hamilton Gymnasium, the top-seeded Eagles (23-1) won 72-49 and punched their ticket to the Final Four. It was the third time in as many playoff games the Metro League champions scored over 70 points.

Owners of six total titles, the Faith Christian Eagles last won state in 2012. The Yuma boys won the Class 2A title in 2022 to cap a run of three titles in five seasons from 2018-2022 before moving up to Class 3A this year.

Faith Christian’s Keegan Paige led all scorers with 23 points.

The Eagles will play No. 4 Highland in the semifinals at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.

(6) Windsor Charter Academy 51, (3) Centauri 39

The Windsor Charter boys basketball team might be the newcomer to the Class 3A state tournament, but it’s going to be hard to think of the Firebirds that way after Thursday night.

In the final game of this year’s 3A Great 8 at the University of Denver’s Hamilton Gymnasium, the sixth-seeded Firebirds won 51-39 over No. 3 Centauri. The win sent the Firebirds dancing into the Final Four in just their first season as a CHSAA-sanctioned program.

That’s quite the way for a team to announce its arrival in postseason play.

“Crazy world, right?” Firebirds head coach Keith Dellapina said. “It’s surreal for us, it’s amazing for us and it starts with our staff. Our kids are amazing. We’ve been playing with house money since the very first moment of the tournament, at least that’s how we’re looking at it. It’s amazing.”

Runner-up in last year’s state tournament, Centauri (20-4) led 14-11 after the first quarter but the Firebirds (21-3) outscored them 19-5 in the second to take the lead into halftime. The Centauri Falcons made several runs at the lead, including cutting it to single digits with 2 minutes, 30 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, but the Firebirds weathered the storm each time.

Windsor Charter senior Landon Ball and freshman Andrew Schams each led the Foothills League champions with 13 points. Senior Tymen Henry had nine points for the Firebirds and sophomore Kellen Ball, who leads the team in scoring at 14.7 points per game, scored seven points.

Chaz Holman led Centauri with 13 points.

Windsor Charter will match up with No. 2 Salida in the Final Four at 8:30 p.m. on Friday.