DENVER – The team that wasn’t supposed to be here was the last one standing.

And, it was a defensive stand – that gave the Outlaws state championship glory.

Vanguard’s Matty Dessalegn missed a 3-pointer from the top right of the key off the back iron at the buzzer, propelling Yuma to a dramatic 55-54 win in the Class 3A state championship Saturday at the University of Denver’s Hamilton Gym.

“I’m so proud of you guys,” Yuma coach Dave Sheffield said. “We weren’t supposed to be here and look how strong we were. We won (our last) three games by three total points. It is just incredible. It’s awesome.”

Yuma capped its season with a 22-4 record and captured seventh boys basketball title in school history to go with the Outlaws won in 1958, 1963, 1981, 2018, 2019, and 2022.

The improbable run by Yuma consisted of one-point decisions over Centauri (35-34) in the Elite 8, and Forge Christian in the semifinals (42-41), setting the stage for Saturday night.

Vanguard ended its season with a 25-2 record.

The game was full of drama – especially in the final three minutes.

Brody Sheffield, the coach’s son and Christian Duarte answered with a five-point spurt to give the Outlaws a 53-50 edge with 2:30 left. JJ Wetters countered with a bucket to get Vanguard with one at 53-52 with 2:10 left in the game.

Moments later – 1:58 to be exact – Jonathan Thomson made two free throws putting Yuma up 55-52.

After a turnover by Yuma, Vanguard turned up the heat when Dessalegn put in the follow shot to cut the lead Yuma to 55-54 with 1:15 remaining.

(Dan Mohrmann/

Then it became a game that neither team seemed to want to win.

With 56.9 seconds remaining Yuma turned the ball over. Cameron Rowney dribbled up court and when his team couldn’t get an open look a timeout was called. Unfortunately for Vanguard it returned the turnover favor – giving Yuma the ball with 23.2 seconds left.

When Vanguard’s Josh Alade fouled Yuma’s Edwin Munoz, it gave the Outlaws a great chance to stretch its narrow lead.

However, who had a game-high 21 points on seven 3-pointers, missed both shots from the charity stripe and the ball was rebounded by Vanguard. Vanguard called a timeout with 10.3 seconds on the clock to set up its final play.

Like they did the previous two games – Yuma snatched victory from defeat – as a celebration began when Dessalegn’s shot bounced off the back of the rim.

“This is surreal,” Munoz said. “We were being doubted from the start. We lost a lot of seniors and this was a whole new team and we proved everyone wrong. We just have an amazing team here. This is whole state tournament I kept telling my teammates if we miss a shot, we will get it back on defense and that’s what we did. Defense wins championships.”

(Dan Mohrmann/