DENVER – For the first time in program history, the Northfield girls basketball team has a shot state gold. The Nighthawks suffocated top-seeded Air Academy with a full-court press and knocked down the biggest shots in the biggest moments to get a 70-66 win to advance to the Class 5A state title game.

“We’re going to celebrate this pretty hard, but the work’s not done,” guard Aliyah Herron said. “We have to reel it back in and realize we still have more to [accomplish].”

Herron scored a game-high 22 points and went 4-for-13 from the 3-point line. It was a much better showing in the Denver Coliseum than she last week, at least from a shooting perspective.

“It’s been a big adjustment,” she said. “In the Great 8, I was not shooting the ball well. I think I made one 3 and missed most of my free throws. It was a big adjustment to be shooting shots like that today.”

The Nighthawks spent the majority of the game pressuring the Kadets in the full court and it definitely disrupted the Air Academy rhythm. Despite building a double-digit lead in the first half, but turnovers plagued them throughout the course of the game.

Air Academy turned the ball over 35 times. To make matters worse, Kadets forward Caitlin Kramer picked up her fourth foul in the third quarter. She eventually fouled out of the game after scoring 15 points.

She helped Air Academy maintain the lead throughout most of the second half, but the Kadets couldn’t pull away. Alena Vondracek knocked down a big 3-pointer with 15 seconds left o tie the game. Kramer scored the first basket of overtime for the Kadets before picking up her fifth foul.

With the Nighthawks down three with just over two minutes left, Herron knocked down a 3-pointer and then LaPorsha Allen gave them the lead with a layup and they never looked back, much to the delight of the Northfield crowd.

“It feels good,” Herron said. “The crowd and the bench motivate us, we motivate them and it just keeps us going at the end.”

Roosevelt 44, Mead 37

(Doug Ottewill/

Even though the roster is young, the Roosevelt Roughriders know how to win on a big stage. They put on their best effort at the Denver Coliseum last year and after beating Mead to advance to the girls championship game to face Northfield, it looks like they’re following the blueprint in 2024.

After jumping out a fast lead against the Mavericks in the opening minutes of the Final 4 game, Roosevelt kept it consistently around five for much of the second half.

“The same thing happened last year, there are always ups and downs,” Kyla Hollier said. “We just had to keep our poise and stay strong.”

Hollier did what she could to extend the lead early in the fourth with a basket and an and-one free throw. With under four minutes left, the Roughriders stretched the lead to 10, but Elena Gomez cut into the lead with a 3-pointer.

But it wasn’t enough to ignite a comeback. Hollier scored a game-high 20 points before fouling out, which happened with Roosevelt up 44-37 with 37 seconds left on the clock. The Roughriders had the game in-hand at that point and are excited to be back in the championship game.

“It feels good, but our work isn’t done yet,” Hollier said.

The Roughriders return to the 5A title game where they beat Windsor 54-44 last season. This is the fourth championship game appearance in school history. The only title to date for the Roughriders came last year.