BOULDER — Ronnie DeGray's debut season as Valor Christian's boys basketball coach was a success. DeGray's Eagles finished 22-5 and came within one game of winning the Class 4A state basketball championship.
Lewis-Palmer captured its second consecutive state championship with a 51-40 victory over Valor on March 16 at the University of Colorado's Coors Events Center, the venue where DeGray played two seasons of collegiate basketball for the Buffs.
“I knew coming in it would be tough learning my system,” DeGray said. “The first ride was fun but all rides come to an end.”
All five of the Eagles' starters in the championship game — Christian McCaffrey, Paden Mueller, Marcus Wilson, Chase Foster and Garrett Baggett — were juniors.
Foster led the Eagles in scoring with a 19.7 average and the starting lineup will return close to 58 points per game next season.
“The future is bright,” DeGray said. “I learned a lot from these kids this season.”
Valor held a 30-29 lead early in the fourth quarter when Lewis-Palmer went on a 10-2 surge and took control of the game. The Eagles twice cut the Rangers' advantage to five points but Lewis-Palmer outscored Valor 8-2 in the final 1:45 to repeat as champions.
Foster, who for the second consecutive game had trouble scoring from the perimeter, did damage inside and paced the Eagles with 17 points. Valor shot only 32.6 percent from the field for the game.
Valor's players showed class after the title game as they watched the Rangers accept the gold ball that goes to the state championship team.
The finish was just the opposite of Valor's dramatic comeback March 15 in a 75-74 semifinal victory over Broomfield.
Valor trailed by 12 points early in the fourth quarter against Broomfield and were behind 71-63 with 1:25 left to play.
Three free throws by Foster with 31.6 on the clock pulled Valor close at 74-72 and when Broomfield's Alec McLain missed a shot it gave the Eagles from Highlands Ranch a chance.
Valor didn't have a timeout and Wilson drove the lane, passed to Luke Proctor in the corner and the senior took his first shot of the game and buried a winning 3-pointer shot five seconds before the final buzzer.
Broomfield race down court but Spenser Reeb's shot bounced off the rim.
“I just spotted up in the corner,” Proctor said. “I wasn't really looking for the shot. I thought someone else was going to take it but when it came down to it, I just had to put it up. Marcus drew the double team by driving.
“My teammates did a good job of helping us come back. We hit free throws, we made some smart plays and we got some good stops on defense. Chase had some big points, Garrett had some big points. We were trying to get the ball to Chase at the end but they knew that so I was ready and hoping it would come to me.”
Proctor, a senior, played only three minutes in the game but he was carried off the floor by his teammates at the end of the game.
Foster had 25 points and nine rebounds in the semifinal win, while Baggett added 20 points.