DENVER – When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, Resurrection Christian had a top-ranked, Final 4 team that didn’t get a chance to play out its championship aspirations when the season was cut short.

So, when the Cougars were celebrating completing the job in the 2024 Class 4A title game after beating Kent Denver 76-61, Resurrection Christian coach Ryan Yoder wanted to take a moment to recognize that team as the Cougars secured the first banner in program history.

“[The] 2020 [team], this is partly for them,” the coach said. “I’m in some ways dedicating this to them because they didn’t get the chance. We get to be the first official (champion) and that’s quite an honor. It’s been since 1986 that a team from the Loveland area has won a championship (in boys basketball). It’s been since 1954 since a team from Fort Collins won a championship. We’re honored to bring the title up north.”

The Cougars nearly completed the job last season, reaching the game and falling to Holy Family in the championship. For Cade Crutcher, who was the team’s leading scorer in last year’s game and finished with 18 points this year, a focal point of the matchup with the Sun Devils was to avoid feeling state-championship-losing disappointment a second time.

“Last year we had a chance and didn’t come through,” Crutcher said. “I know I was thinking before the game — I remember how that felt last year and I don’t want to feel that ever again. Having that motivation from last year and trusting our teammates carried us through.”

Both teams started with a fast-and-furious pace, trading buckets and quick shots in transition. The Cougars took the first multi-possession lead, up 9-5, on a mid-range jumper from Ty Yoder. The Sun Devils regained their first lead since the opening possession with 3:19 left in the first off Nicholas Buckenau’s deep ball. The teams traded the lead three more times before the Cougars ended the opening period with a 22-21 advantage.

They continued to battle back and forth through the second, but it was in the third quarter that Resurrection Christian started to pull away, more readily smashing through Kent Denver’s frenetic press and taking advantage of number advantages on the break.

But that energy and execution was tempered with patience. The Cougars recognized the Sun Devils’ attempts to speed teams up throughout the season.

“Just being patient bringing the ball across half court, so we know we’re safe from any traps,” Crutcher said. “We kept a lot of possessions because we did that and it helped us win.”

Ty Yoder was at the center of the ball-handling display, weaving through dozens of traps and backside pressures as he finished with a team-high 19 points, going a perfect 8 for 8 from the charity stripe. Jacob Barker and Marcus Phillips joined them in double figures, finishing with 18 and 10 points, respectively.

Kent Denver was led by Caleb Fay with 25 points, five assists and four steals.

While the Cougars will lose Barker to Metro State, they’ll return four of their top seven scorers, including Ty Yoder and Crutcher. Ryan Yoder said the Resurrection Christian’s ability to put the team’s needs ahead of their own helped them on the championship run and will carry into the future.

A lot of it dates back to that championship loss to Holy Family in 2023.

“Ever since that game, these guys have put in the work,” the coach said. “In the weight room, on the court, getting shots, doing ball-handling stuff. They’ve been playing some really good competition this fall and summer. We’ve played ThunderRidge, we’ve played Windsor, we’ve played Mountain Vista, we’ve played Regis. We beat a couple of those teams and lost to a couple of those teams, and they’re all powerhouses, right? We knew what we had, it was just a matter of having it come together.”