BOULDER | It was undoubtedly the finest season ever for boys basketball in every corner of Aurora, yet the road ended at Overland yet again.
The Trailblazers continued to thrive on their mantra of “OVE” — “Overland vs. Everybody” — and brought home a second straight Class 5A state championship to end a season in which they had their fair share of doubters.
Coach Danny Fisher’s team survived a challenge from Centennial League rival Eaglecrest March 12 all-Aurora 5A state final at raucous Coors Events Center and finished off a 66-56 win to become the first 5A team to repeat since another Aurora program — Regis Jesuit — won three straight crowns from 2009 to 2011.
“This was our goal, we knew we were capable of getting here, but we knew it would be a journey,” said Fisher, whose team has been to three straight 5A Final Fours and won two of them.
“It really shouldn’t be easy and sometimes we had unrealistic expectations for ourselves,” he added. “We got humbled a few times and I think that’s why we are standing here today celebrating, because we were able to get through some of those moments.”
Considered a favorite to repeat coming into the season with 6-foot-10 center De’Ron Davis back as part of a strong senior class and further bolstered by the return of Jervae Robinson and Tyler Stevenson, the Trailblazers got off to an undefeated start prior to winter break.
Included was winning the Platinum Division of the Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas — where Overland beat teams from Florida, Nevada and Utah that went to win state championships in their respective states — and made the Trailblazers believe they could go through the season undefeated.
But Overland lost to Regis Jesuit in its first game out of winter break, fell again to Eaglecrest a short time later and then lost to Grandview on Jan. 27 in a game that caused some to question their championship makeup.
The Trailblazers caught fire at the end of the regular season, worked their way back into a tie in the final Centennial League standings with Eaglecrest and steamrolled through the playoffs like no other team, winning their five postseason contests by an average margin of 22 points.
“People thought we dropped off or thought we left or something, but we were still here,” Overland senior Reggie Gibson said. “People who didn’t want to rock with us, we just let them be and we came out the last one standing.”
The Grandview loss in particular lit a fire under Overland and it won its last 13 games of the year in style.
“Everybody goes down once, but we stepped it back up,” senior Alijah Halliburton said. “It was part of the learning process where we just don’t think we can roll by everybody and we have to take everybody seriously. That’s what we did and we went on a 13-game streak and we’re here today and we’ve got a championship. Another one.”
Robinson and Stevenson missed out on the championship game experience last season as they were at an academy in Oklahoma, but they played vital roles in getting Overland back to the top.
In the championship game, Robinson scored a team-high 18 points before fouling out and Stevenson added 14 to the cause.
“Our senior class was really strong; we knew each other since we were way young and we came in and dreamed of this,” Robinson said. “Freshman year, we thought we’d have four of these, so expectations were big for us from the start.
“I’m happy that we accomplished a part of our dreams.”
Davis, the driving force in the middle, scored 11 points in the final, but had to sit on the bench after fouling out midway through the fourth quarter.
The Indiana University signee lauded his teammates’ ability to pick up for his absence and still top a talented Eaglecrest team.
“It’s been all over that as long as teams get me in foul trouble, they have a chance to win the game,” Davis said. “That didn’t go so well. There’s no letdown when I’m out. It just shows how dedicated we are to each other and how dedicated we are to the fans and to the game of basketball.
“For us to ride out on top is pretty special.”
Coach John Olander’s Raptors — who ended Rangeview’s dreams of an undefeated season and a state championship in a rousing semifinal win a day earlier — trailed by just three points at halftime, but saw Overland edge away in the third quarter and hold on. The Trailblazers won the series from the Raptors, 2-1, but the teams shared the Centennial League title.
Most encouraging for Eaglecrest is that most of the roster returns next season, highlighted by junior guard Colbey Ross. Ross scored 27 points in the championship game,
“We just can’t get complacent; it’s hard to get here and it takes some good bounces here and there, a little luck and hard work,” Olander said. “Hopefully our guys understand that it’s not a guarantee that you’re going to be back in the Final Four. We have some big shoes to fill from our seniors who made plays all year long.”
Rangeview’s season came to an end at 26-1 after its three-point loss to Eaglecrest in the semifinals.
“I still think about it, I really think we could have played with Overland (in the championship game),” Rangeview senior Jalen Guidry said. “We had so many chances, we just didn’t play the way we did in the regular season.”
(1) OVERLAND 66, (1) EAGLECREST 56
Score by quarters:
Eaglecrest 7 16 7 26 — 56
Overland 18 8 15 25 — 66
Colbey Ross 8 9-10 27, Elijah Wilson 2 3-4 7, Austin Forsberg 0 0-0 0, Ikenna Ozor 3 1-1 7, Nate Bokol 0 0-0 0, Victor Garnes 0 0-0 0, Xaiv’ion Jackson 0 3-4 3, Jalaughn Jackson 3 0-0 6, Josh Walton 0 0-0 0, Abanezer Alemneh 0 0-0 0, Elijah Anderson 2 0-0 4, Charles Roberts 1 0-0 2. Totals 19 16-21 56.
Jervae Robinson 6 4-6 18, Reggie Gibson 2 0-0 4, De’Ron Davis 5 0-0 11, Alijah Halliburton 2 0-0 4, Tyler Stevenson 5 2-2 14, Padiet Wang 3 2-5 8, Asad Yousaf 0 7-10 7, Brent Halliburton 0 0-0 0, Steven Hayes 0 0-0 0, Tedmond Taylor 0 0-0 0, Brian Price 0 0-0 0, Goy Wang 0 0-0 0. Totals 23 15-23 66.
3-point field goals — Eaglecrest (2): Colbey Ross 2; Overland (5): Jervae Robinson 2, Tyler Stevenson 2, De’Ron Davis. Total fouls — Eaglecrest 21, Overland 17. Fouled out — Overland: Davis, Robinson. Technical fouls — None.