AURORA | Michaela Onyenwere loves to play, but the Grandview junior star also can use a few minutes off during games given how hard she goes when she’s on the basketball floor.
She got an eyeful of her teammates from a comfortable seat on the bench during the second quarter of Tuesday night’s Class 5A girls state basketball Sweet 16 playoff game, as the top-seeded Wolves turned a four-point edge into a 15-point bulge in her absence on their way to a decisive 81-31 win over visiting No. 7 Fairview.
Despite sitting for most of the second quarter and all of the fourth, Onyenwere finished with a game-high 27 points and helped Grandview dominate the offensive glass and a variety of other categories all night to move to 25-0. Junior Lenzi Hudson hit two of the Wolves’ seven 3-pointers on the night and finished with 12 points, senior Kayla Vallin added nine and freshmen Alisha Davis and Allyah Marlett chipped in eights points apiece in a well-rounded effort by coach Josh Ulitzky’s team.
“It’s a relief for me, I can get a break for a little bit,” Onyenwere said about her teammates’ stellar play. “It’s refreshing to know that when I’m on the bench in foul trouble or whatever, I have great teammates that keep the score where it needs to be or score more. This team is not just me at all, it’s every single person we have.”
The victory pushed Grandview in a Great 8 matchup against Centennial League rival and third-seeded Cherry Creek — a 39-32 Sweet 16 winner over No. 2 Poudre — at 8:30 p.m. on Friday at the Denver Coliseum. The Wolves beat the Bruins by 22 and 30 points in their two league meetings.
Fairview (16-10), which pulled a mild upset of No. 4 Brighton in the opening round, saw Onyenwere pile up 12 points in the opening quarter, yet trailed by just four points after one quarter.
Sophomore Jaiden Galloway knocked down a 3-pointer immediately to open the second quarter and hit another triple later in the period and Marlett also knocked one down as Grandview pushed in front 38-23 at halftime.
“We rely on Michaela no doubt about it, but it helps all of them focus a little bit more when she’s not out there,” Ulitzky said. “They know ‘she’s not getting the rebound, so I’ve got to go get it’ or ‘I have to make the extra pass.’ That was the big takeaway from tonight. They did it the other night against Douglas County as well, so I hope it gives them all confidence.”
Onyenwere returned to the floor and scored 13 more points in the third quarter to help the Wolves dominate the period — to the tune of 28-2 — that eliminated any doubts that Grandview was headed to the Great 8 for the fourth time in the past five seasons.
The Knights scored their only points of the period on Meadbh Koeningsberg’s bucket inside the final minute.
Five different players scored in the final quarter as the Wolves continued to run away.
With two wins under its belt, Grandview can focus on beating Cherry Creek (19-6), which would put the Wolves in the Final Four for the third time in four seasons.
“Seeing a team for the third time is a tough challenge for sure,” Ulitzky said. “They are really good at what they do, so we’re going to have to work really hard in practice to counter what they do.
“Everybody is good at this point, so you just hope you go out and play well and execute what you want to do.”
Onyenwere is also wary of the Bruins, especially given only she and fellow junior Kennede Brown and senior Kayla Vallin have actually suited up at the Denver Coliseum. Grandview lost to Lakewood — which could be its next opponent — in the Sweet 16, falling short of advancing to the Great 8.
“I feel like it’s on me and Kennede and Kayla to bring this team and tell them that we’ve been here before,” Onyenwere said. “It’s a different setting, but we’re not going to do anything different and it won’t be any different than playing at Grandview. We’re not going to overlook them.
“We played them twice in our league, but we don’t want to go in and think we got it. They want it just as bad as we do.”
All four top seeds in the tournament advanced to the Great 8 as Broomfield, Highlands Ranch and Lakewood also made the Great 8, in addition to No. 2s Horizon, Ralston Valley and ThunderRidge plus Cherry Creek, the lone No. 3.
Highlands Ranch (24-1) takes on Horizon (20-5) at 4 p.m. to open the Great 8 slate, followed by Lakewood (21-4) vs. ThunderRidge (22-3) at 5:30 p.m. and Broomfield (23-2) against Ralston Valley (22-3) at 7 p.m. prior to the Wolves and Bruins.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
(1) GRANDVIEW 81, (5) FAIRVIEW 31
Score by quarters:
Fairview 17 6 2 6 — 31
Grandview 21 17 28 15 — 81
Denali Pinto 1 2-4 4, Sarah Gordon 3 0-0 7, Ashley Panem 3 4-4 10, Logan Tidstrom 1 0-0 2, Grace O’Neill 0 0-0 0, Tati Sobolik 2 0-0 4, Meadbh Koenigsberg 1 0-0 2, Kate O’Neill 1 0-0 2, Annie Kuosman 0 0-0 0, Lailah Safi 0 0-0 0, Sruthi Raguveer 0 0-0 0, Kelsey Webster 0 0-0 0. Totals 12 6-8 31.
Alexus Gash 0 0-0 0, Alisha Davis 4 0-0 8, Michaela Onyenwere 13 1-1 27, Kennede Brown 2 0-0 4, Jaiden Galloway 2 0-2 6, Lenzi Hudson 5 0-0 12, Allyah Marlett 2 3-4 8, Kayla Vallin 4 0-3 9, Shalom Prince 1 0-0 2, Heaven Smith 1 0-0 2, Madison Noone 1 0-0 3. 35 4-10 81.
3-point field goals — Fairview: Sarah Gordon; Grandview (7): Jaiden Galloway 2, Lenzi Hudson 2, Allyah Marlett, Madison Noone, Kayla Vallin. Total fouls — Fairview 13, Grandview 9. Fouled out — None. Technical fouls — None.