DENVER – In a battle between a gritty team performance and a herculean individual effort Friday night, teamwork won out in the end.

Eaglecrest guard LaDavian King capped his 31-point evening with three consecutive free throws in a raucous Denver Coliseum to tie ThunderRidge with 9.9 seconds to go. The Grizzlies responded with a counterpunch from its most dynamic player, an attempted layup from Andrew Crawford that rattled off the rim and out — and right into the hands of post Tommy Wight. It was the ThunderRidge post who hit a putback as the buzzer sounded to lift the Grizzlies to a 64-62 victory and earn a spot in the Class 6A state championship on Saturday.

“It’s incredible, man. I can’t even describe all this” Wight said, motioning to a ThunderRidge student section with hundreds of screaming fans. “I’ve never been happier. I don’t think it comes down to that one play. We battled all game long and we had an incredible performance from the team. I’m just happy we won.”

Four players finished in double figures for the Grizzlies, led by Crawford with 22 points. Charlie Spann added 14 points with several hard-fought finishes at the rim, and Wight had 12 points with a team-high eight rebounds, four of which — including the game-winning putback — came on the offensive end. Ryan Doyle contributed 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting.

It’s the third title game trip for ThunderRidge in four years.

King, meanwhile, quietly jogged off the court after the final buzzer sounded, a bitter ending to one of the best performances at the state tournament. The junior lifted the Raptors to an early lead, scoring eight quick points across five possessions in the first quarter. He kept Eaglecrest afloat as ThunderRidge overcame a slow start, with six more points on a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter, helping his team to a 29-28 lead at the break.

Beyond his clutch free throws at the end of the game, King’s outside shooting was a key piece of overcoming the double-digit lead the Grizzlies posted in the third quarter.

It was by far King’s best performance of the postseason, who had 25 points in the opening round win over Castle View before having relatively quiet performances in wins over Ralston Valley and top-seeded Fruita Monument.

Valor Christian 67, Smoky Hill 56

(Doug Ottewill/

Cole Scherer spent two consecutive minutes in the middle of the fourth quarter telling his Valor Christian teammates to get him the basketball. The Eagles junior guard was face-guarded by Smoky Hill everywhere on the court. But when he finally cut off a screen with less than two minutes to go and took a hand-off pass, the ensuing and-one layup put the game away.

Scherer not only knocked down the bonus free throw but added two more from a technical foul off a shove near midcourt. The five-point swing added to a four-point lead and was more than enough to put the game away.

“Just the put ball in my hands in clutch spots,” Scherer said. “I believe in myself and my team believes in me. We’ve been working on that all week and it felt good to go out there and get the win.”

The five-point surge pushed Scherer’s final point total to 29 on an extra efficient shooting night. He was 9 for 13 from the field, 5 of 6 from deep and 6 of 7 from the free-throw line under intense defensive scrutiny. The bulk of his scores inside the arc were heavily contested layups.

“Your best players are at their best when their best is needed,” Valor coach Jeff Platt said. “That was Cole Scherer tonight.”

Eli Kim added 14 points with three 3-pointers and Ryan Dixon chipped in with 11 points coupled with arguably the most difficult defensive assignment of the night clashing with Smoky Hill’s bigs.

Early on, the Buffaloes held an advantage on the offensive glass and couldn’t miss from outside. They shot 50% from the field in the first half and didn’t miss from 3-point range until deep into the second quarter, knocking down the first five 3-point attempts they took to lock in a five-point lead at intermission.

By the end of the third quarter, Valor fought all the way back, with Scherer knocking down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it 45-45, setting up a final period that heavily favored the Eagles.

“It was a sign of a resilience this group has shown this the whole season,” Platt said. “How much they’ve matured, and they’ve learned how to win games in different ways. Tonight, we had to come back and battle in the second half. We were turning the ball over too much early, getting outrebounded, but we were able to make the adjustment. I’m proud of them.”