DENVER – Colorado Springs Christian School’s defense and intensity were there from the jump in Thursday’s Class 3A Great 8 at the University of Denver’s Hamilton Gymnasium.

But the Lions girls basketball team needed an offensive spark to help seal the deal against two-time defending champion Platte Valley. Freshman Kinley Asp must have sensed it.

With her Lions up 19-6 coming out of halftime, Asp scored 10 straight points to open the third quarter and give the Lions the cushion necessary for them to hold off the champs in what ended up a 44-35 victory.

The Lions are back in the Final 4.

“I don’t know, I think it was just the student section,” Asp said of what spurred her scoring barrage. “We had great people who came out from our school and all the girls were just uplifting. Our spirits were high and we kept them up there. We just played so well as a team and I’m just so thankful to have teammates like this.”

Despite Colorado Springs Christian (23-2 overall) building a lead coming out of halftime, Platte Valley (17-8) cut that lead to five midway through the fourth quarter. That lead shrunk to just four with two minutes left in the game, but the Lions held on to capture the Final Four berth that was on the line.

Lions head coach Mark Engesser credited his team holding its opponent to six points in the first half for making the second-half run and eventual victory possible.

“Our defense was phenomenal in that first half,” Engesser said. “That’s what won us the game. Our defensive intensity was amazing in the first. Our offense wasn’t that great but to hold them to six points in the first half was huge. Kinley kind of put us up there in the third and we held on for dear life at the end.”

Asp led the Lions with 16 points. Lions junior Grace Minihane, who led all of 3A in scoring entering Thursday’s game with an average of 21.3 points per game, finished with 10 points for the Tri-Peaks League champions.

Colorado Springs Christian last won a state title in 2002.

“I think in those twenty years, I think we got second at least five times and maybe more,” Engesser said. “We got second three years in a row in ’17, ’18 and ’19. So, it’s not easy to do. It’s really hard to win. Tonya Schissler is a great coach and she’s won two in a row. It’s not easy to do. Hopefully it happens, but we’re just going to play hard and let the chips fall where they may.”

Platte Valley senior Andi Schissler (16.8 ppg) scored a team-high 16 points for the Patriot League champions, who had won 11 straight games prior to Thursday.

Colorado Springs Christian now has a date with No. 7 St. Mary’s in the Final Four at 7 p.m. on Friday.

(9) Ellicott 45, (16) Buena Vista 30

Knowing full well the Buena Vista girls basketball team had just knocked off the No. 1 seed and having also played the 16th-seeded Demons head-to-head during the regular season, the No. 9 seed Ellicott girls were acutely aware they couldn’t take Thursday’s Class 3A Great 8 game lightly.

Chasing its first title since 1995, Ellicott (20-5) pulled away in the third quarter to win 45-30 over the Demons (16-9) at the University of Denver’s Hamilton Gymnasium and advanced to Friday’s Final Four.

“They’re a really good team and they have been all year,” Ellicott head coach Cody Chambers said. “I think our girls did a really good job of understanding that just because we beat them early, that doesn’t mean anything. We knew they’ve kind of been the dragon slayer and we knew we’d have to come in and play with high effort or they’d knock us off.”

Both teams were eliminated in the first round last season, and Ellicott led by just three points at halftime. The Thunderhawks, however, used a 17-8 third quarter to pull away.

Aileen Gutierrez-Hermosillo led Ellicott with nine points. Melissa Lugo-Hermosillo scored eight. Ellicott senior Alyssa Lagasse, who entered Thursday’s game averaging over 17 points a contest, scored six points, as did Micheyla Stewart and Clarissa Smith.

Ellicott will face No. 5 The Vanguard in the Final Four at 4 p.m. on Friday.

Buena Vista, which was led on Thursday by Madeline Litvay with 11 points, was the lowest seed remaining in the tournament. The Demons last won a state title in 2005.

(5) The Vanguard 75, (13) Grand Valley 61

The Vanguard is back in the Class 3A girls basketball Final Four for the third straight year.

On Thursday at the University of Denver’s Hamilton Gymnasium, the fifth-ranked Coursers (20-5) won 75-61 over No. 13 Grand Valley (18-7) in the Great 8.

The Vanguard led 39-30 at halftime. Courser’s senior Hailey Blanchard, who entered Thursday’s game as 3A’s sixth leading scorer averaging 18.1 points per game, scored 16 of her game-high 34 points in the first half. She hit five of the Courser’s 11 3-pointers in the game.

Also for The Vanguard, Juliana Garcia scored 15 points and Elysia Bottcher scored 14.

Seeking their first state title, the Coursers will play No. 9 Ellicott in the Final Four at 4 p.m. on Friday.

Grand Valley reached the Final Four in 2022 before losing to eventual champion Platte Valley.

The Cardinals feature two of Class 3A’s top four scorers in junior Jaycee Pittman (19.6 ppg) and senior AbbeyRose Parker (20.6 ppg), who combined to score 50 of the Cardinals’ 61 total points in the Great 8.

(7) St. Mary’s 57, (2) Centauri 39

In the final Great 8 game on Thursday night, the seventh-seeded St. Mary’s girls basketball team capped off the evening with a 57-39 upset over No. 2 Centauri.

Back-to-back state champions in 2018 and 2019, the Pirates are back in the Final Four for the first time since 2020 when the last two rounds of the season were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Led by nine points from Bailey Darneal, the Pirates (20-5) led 31-20 at halftime. Darneal Finished with a game-high 17 points for the Pirates, who also got 12 points from Jaela Pedro and nine points from junior leading scorer Emerson Kutz.

Kailyn Polzin led Centauri (21-3) with 12 points and Braelyn Tucker scored 10 for the Intermountain League champions, who last won a state title in 2006.

St. Mary’s will take on No. 3 Colorado Springs Christian in the semifinals at 7 p.m. on Friday.