Grandview senior Lauren Betts, center, holds up the plaque the Wolves got for winning the Alice Barron quadrant of the Class 5A girls state basketball bracket with a 70-38 victory over Cherry Creek on March 4, 2022, at the Denver Coliseum. The third-seeded Wolves earned a spot in the March 10 5A semifinals. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel Colorado)

DENVER | The Grandview girls basketball team returned to the Denver Coliseum Friday night for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and played like it never left.

The last time the program set shoes on the floor at the venue, it was with a big win over Valor Christian on March 12, 2020, in the Class 5A semifinals, a victory that was supposed to follow just two days later with a state championship matchup with Cherry Creek.

That title game got wiped out and the tournament moved away last season, but the Wolves and Bruins ended up meeting on the floor, but in this season’s Great 8 instead. Grandview played like it had been there before in a 70-38 victory to gain a three-game sweep of its Centennial League rivals and a chance to return March 10 in the semifinals.

“It was so surreal, I loved it,” said guard Marya Hudgins, who along with fellow senior Lauren Betts were the only two Wolves to have played in that last 2020 game.

“When I walked in initially, it was like ‘I missed this feeling.’ It’s awesome.”

The Santa Clara-bound Hudgins and Betts — the 6-foot-7 Stanford signee — both looked more than comfortable in their returns to the Denver Coliseum.

On 70 percent shooting from the field, Hudgins scored a game-high 21 points, while Betts finished with 16 points, 16 rebounds and five blocked shots as Grandview cruised to victory. The Wolves (16-9) will take on second-seeded Highlands Ranch — a 54-39 winner over No. 7 Doherty — in the semifinals.

But not everybody had experience on the big stage, which produced a rough start for both teams, as it took nearly two minutes for either team to get on the scoreboard.

Senior Amaya Charles knocked down her first shot at the Coliseum, a 3-pointer, to put Grandview up 8-4 midway through the first quarter and the Wolves were off and running.

“I think since it was almost everybody’s first time, everybody was nervous at first,” said Charles, who finished with 10 points. “As soon as we started playing basketball, we knew we would be OK.”

Grandview led by double figures two minutes into the second quarter over the Bruins — a team made up largely of sophomores and freshmen — pushed the margin to 20 late in the opening half to go into the break up 19.

Freshman A’Neya Chambers (who had a team-high 13 points) asserted herself for Cherry Creek early in the third quarter and helped get the margin down to 17, but the lead went back to 20 after three quarters and crested with the final margin of 32.

Grandview’s standout freshman, Sienna Betts, added 10 points.

The Wolves’ win earned them a seventh consecutive trip to the Final Four.

They were tripped up last year by Regis Jesuit in a game played on the Raiders’ home floor instead of the Denver Coliseum, but prior to that had won their previous four semifinal contests to reach the state title game.

Grandview has become somewhat familiar with facing Highlands Ranch in the postseason, as the programs will square off for the fourth time since 2007. Coach Caryn Jarocki’s Falcons came out on top in the second round in 2007 and in the Great 8 in 2012, while Ulitzky’s Wolves won in the 2018 Great 8.

The winner of this meeting moves into the 5 p.m. March 11 state championship game against either No. 1 Valor Christian or No. 5 Arapahoe.

“We’re super excited,” Charles said. “Only a couple more days of practice and then the Final Four. We’re ready.”

Added Hudgins: “It’s my last week of high school basketball, so I’m super excited and I’m going to just take it all in.”

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports

(3) GRANDVIEW 70, (6) CHERRY CREEK 38

Score by quarters:

Cherry Creek 7 11 12 8 — 38

Grandview 16 20 14 20 — 70

CHERRY CREEK (38)

Tianna Chambers 3 3-4 9, Sofia Baldessari 3 0-0 8, A’Neya Chambers 4 4-8 13, Charley Gordon 0 0-0 0, Kinsey Christianson 1 0-0 2, Mireya Johnson 1 0-0 3, Kiley Smich 1 0-0 2, Sam Smith 0 1-4 1, Molly Dorighi 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 8-18 38.

GRANDVIEW (70)

Amaya Charles 4 0-1 10, Sienna Betts 4 2-2 10, Gabriella Cunningham 1 1-3 3, Marya Hudgins 7 5-6 21, Lauren Betts 6 4-7 16, Paetyn Lewis 1 0-0 2, Sydnie McClain 1 2-2 4, Benedicte Kalala 1 2-4 4, Deijah Robertson 0 0-0 0, Leiava Holliman 0 0-0 0. Totals 25 16-25 70.

3-point field goalsCherry Creek (4): Sofia Baldessari 2, A’Neya Chambers, Mireya Johnson; Grandview (4): Amaya Charles 2, Marya Hudgins 2. Total fouls — Cherry Creek 22, Grandview 14. Fouled out — None. Technical fouls — None.