DENVER – Down nine points going into the fourth quarter, Northfield needed a spark, any kind of spark, to generate a rally to reach the boys basketball Final 4 for just the second time in program history.

Da’Quan Slayton’s steal and score on the opening inbound pass of the quarter provided that spark. Slayton soon knocked down a 3-pointer and cut the lead to four points, but the momentum was all theirs, and they held onto it to get a 61-52 win over Mead in the Class 5A Great 8.

“Plays like that is what makes it memorable for this team,” Justus Michael said. “I want to give thanks to God. We were praying since halftime. We wanted to win and we got it done.”

Michael led the Nighthawks with 14 points, including a layup with one minute left that pushed the lead to 57-52. As great as the offensive spark was for Northfield in the fourth, the defensive was every bit as good, holding the Mavericks to just three points and one field goal.

Dominic McLawerance led the Mavericks with 13 points.

But with a late surge by the Nighthawks, it wasn’t enough. The Nighthawks only started playing varsity basketball in 2018 and are already savoring their chance to reach to play in the Final 4 next week.

“A lot of people downplay us, thinking we come from the northeast side,” Michael said. “We weren’t really good my sophomore year, so now it feels good.”

Jordan Jefferson scored 12 for the Nighthawks while Gyasi Hawthorne added 10. Next week, Northfield plays the winner of the Mesa Ridge/Dakota Ridge game that takes place later Friday at the Denver Coliseum.

The Nighthawks last made the Final 4 in 2020, but didn’t get to play the game as the state tournament was cancelled early due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Windsor 74, Lewis-Palmer 68

(Doug Ottewill/

If there is a lesson that can be learned for Windsor, it’s that no lead is safe in the Coliseum. The Wizards led Lewis-Palmer by as many as 20, but had to fend off a furious rally from the Rangers that cut the lead to three late in the game.

But in the end, L-P was kept a wand’s length away and Windsor is headed back to the 5A boys Final 4 for the second year in a row.

It may not have been possible if not for a hot start that saw the Wizards jump out to a 23-11 lead after the first quarter.

“That first punch was great,” sophomore Madden Smiley said. “You always want to have that with games like this. When that first punch can set [the tone] that definitely helps us a lot.”

Madden was outstanding through the course of the game, scoring a game-high 31 points. They all came from inside the 3-point line or from the charity stripe.

The lead for the Wizards grew to 20 at one point, but L-P was never going to lay down and surrender its Final 4 hopes. The Rangers put together a second-half rally that eventually cut the lead down to 67-64. But that’s as close as Windsor was allowing the game to get.

“You just have to talk to your guys and take a breather,” Smiley said. “Sometimes things can get a little chaotic in this environment and in this arena. We just needed to take a few breaths and I think we did that for sure.”

In last year’s state semifinals, the Wizards fell to eventual state champion Mesa Ridge. But they knew at that moment that returning to the Coliseum for the final weekend of the season.

“We knew it was 100% possible,” Smiley said. “Just like we knew we could do it last year, we knew we could get back.”