BOULDER | Centennial League championship? Check.
First trip to the Class 5A state semifinals? Check.
Win a state championship? Blank.
Memories for a lifetime? Double check.
The Grandview girls basketball team reached three goals over the course of its breakout 2012-13, but the fourth — winning a state championship — eluded them with a 46-43 loss to Regis Jesuit in a 5A semifinal Thursday night at the Coors Events Center in Boulder.
Tears flowed when it was over, but as they dried, coach Josh Ulitzky’s veteran Wolves began to smile again when they thought back to a journey that produced a 24-3 record, the Centennial League title and the program’s first trip to the 5A Final Four.
“It hurts; it’s sad and disappointing, but we accomplished so much this season,” said senior Brooke Genovese, who finished with six points. “We won the league, we made it to the final four for the first time in school history. Every goal we set, other than winning the state championship, we got. Even though it hurts right now, the sun’s going to come up tomorrow and it’s going to be okay.”
The Wolves put everything they had into their rematch with Regis Jesuit, a team they lost to by six points on Jan. 12.
They led in the fourth quarter of that contest before letting it slip away and had a 39-38 advantage with 2:23 remaining in the rematch after a free throw by senior Natasha Edge. Again, the Wolves couldn’t come up with enough plays in crunch time against the Raiders.
Grandview still had a chance after junior Katie Cunningham made one free throw and senior Sedia Olsen rebounded her miss with 10 seconds left. Down by one, Ulitzky diagrammed a play, but the inbounds pass was too high for senior Adaeze Obinnah to handle and Regis Jesuit’s Neffie Lockey jumped on the loose ball to give the Raiders possession.
“Ultimately, we have to execute the play and I have to help them be better prepared,” Ulitzky said. “I thought we had what we were looking for there, but it didn’t go that way.”
Forced to foul, Grandview watched Regis Jesuit’s Justine Hall sink two free throws to build a three-point lead and got only Erin Kemp’s contested 3-pointer that came up short before the final buzzer.
When it was over, Olsen dropped to the floor with emotion and had to helped up by teammates and coaches.
It was an abrupt end to a long journey the group had been through
“It hurts, but we’re so close; these are my sisters and I love them to death,” said Edge, who finished with 10 points in her final prep game before she moves on to Oklahoma Baptist next year.
“I thank God every day for being blessed with a family like this. We’re strong and we’re going to get through this. We made history. Most teams would cry, but we’re so happy with how far we came.
“It’s a bittersweet moment, we’re happy, but disappointed.”
Ulitzky was disappointed in how the season ended and couldn’t immediately put his team’s accomplishments into perspective, but he called it a privilege to work with a team that saw five seniors — Edge, Obinnah, Genovese, Kemp and Olsen — move the program forward significantly.
“I had a group that came in before them that made strides and then this group made some amazing strides,” he said. “This is the best team I’ve ever coached without question. There are some amazing young ladies and I couldn’t be prouder of what they’ve accomplished. Hopefully we can build off that.”
Cunningham and junior sharpshooter Natalie Halbleib, who made three 3-pointers and led Grandview with 13 points in the semifinal game, are expected back next season and hope to keep the Wolves among the elite. Reserve Brittany Bender also should be back, in addition to three other players who suited up for the semifinal.
Before walking out of the Coors Events Center for the first and last time after a game, Edge reveled in what the seniors had helped build after Grandview was 13-12 when they were freshmen. The Wolves improved to 18-6 in 2010-11 and went 20-6 last season, which produced the program’s first trip to the Great 8 and set the tone for this season’s breakout.
“Even though we lost, I’m still excited for all the things we’ve done and the legacy we’ve left,” Edge said. “It’s sad that it’s done now, but we made history for our team. It wasn’t what we wanted, but we have to keep our heads held high.”
Reach Sports Editor Courtney Oakes at [email protected] or 303-750-7555