The McClave boys saw their season end with a 56-49 loss to Stratton in the 3rd place game in the Class 1A state tournament on Saturday afternoon at the UNC Bank of Colorado Arena.
The Cardinals entered the 1A Boys State Championship Tournament with the thought of a repeat championship title earned a year ago.
McClave, seeded #3 in this year’s state tournament, took a major step toward the championship when they dodged a charge from their nemesis the Granada Bobcats in the quarterfinals on Thursday winning the contest, 71-64.
That win advanced the McClave boys into the semifinals contest against a very good Denver Jewish Day team who were seeded #3 in the state tournament bracket. Jewish Day eeked out a win over McClave, 53-47, to advance to the state championship, their first ever. The loss sent McClave to the state third place contest with a rough and rugged Stratton group.
That third-place contest was close throughout the four quarters where Stratton just managed to outlast the Cards making their free throws down the stretch, 56-49, sending McClave home with no hardware.
The McClave boys really had a strong tournament overall as they were in every game and gave the eventual state champions, Denver Jewish Day, everything they could handle.
As it was expected, the 1A State Quarterfinals game on Thursday between McClave (#3) and Granada (#6) boys did not disappoint as it looked like a championship game with the lead going back and forth throughout the exciting contest.
This was the fourth time the two teams had met up with McClave eventually getting a 3-1 advantage for the year.
McClave finally won the contest, 71-64, by taking advantage of the free throw line.
It was anyone’s game until just under 4 minutes left in the third quarter when senior John Hainer from Granada got his fourth foul and was forced to take to the bench. His absence was felt as the rest of the Bobcats battled to hold off the Cardinals who then dominated on the boards.
It would be a 27-14 third quarter advantage for McClave that proved to be the difference in the game as McClave took advantage of strong rebounding for ball possession hitting for 6 threes in that quarter alone.
McClave about had the game broken open at the end of the third 54-43, and fans wondered if Hainer’s return would turn the tables back toward Granada who had led at halftime.
Unfortunately, the officials in Greeley did not allow Hainer much leeway and he quickly was nailed with his fifth foul with more than 7 minutes left in the 4th quarter.
Granada’s Maddox Coleman led all scorers with 24 points and senior shooting guard Brandon Gonzales hit for 14 points.
McClave’s Aiden Martinez had a tremendous double-double performance hitting for 23 points and pulling down 16 rebounds. Connor Forgue hit for 18 points and added 7 rebounds.
Sharp-shooter Ethan Bronniman added 13 points, while senior Aydin Gomez was good for 10 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists.
The McClave boys’ hope for a B2B championship was extinguished on Friday afternoon in the 1A Boys State Semifinals game against Denver Jewish Day as the Cards lost the contest 53-47.
McClave had a 25-13 halftime lead, but a dismal third quarter where they only scored 3 points to DJD’s 20 points was the difference in the contest.
Jewish Day’s phenomenal senior captain and ballhandler Ilan Schinagle impressed the crowds at the state tournament in every game the DJD was in. In this particular game with McClave, the sharp-shooter hit for 24 points and set up numerous players as well. Teammate Andrew Zimmerman would put in a double-double performance with 13 points and 17 rebounds.
For McClave it would be Gomez with an impressive double-double performance with 14 points and 11 rebounds. The senior also dished out 4 assists to his teammates.
Martinez added 10 points and 6 rebounds.
Connor Forgue had a strong game bringing in 9 points and 7 boards. Ray Mongaray added 9 points, as well.
With the disappointing semifinals loss, the Cards managed to regroup and played a strong game against the much bigger Stratton Eagles who had come off a dominating, undefeated state championship 6-man football season. Their strength and full court pressure proved to be exhausting for the smaller Cards.
It was a ballgame at halftime as the Eagles led 28-25.
McClave nipped Stratton in the third by a bucket getting their first lead of the game with .50 seconds left in the third period on an Ethan Bronniman layup, 36-35. But Stratton answered with a bucket of their own with .39 seconds left to send the two teams into the final period of the season with the Eagles leading by a single point, 37-36.
In that fourth quarter, McClave found themselves cold and missed their first few shots from the outside early in the quarter. Finally, with 5:10 left in the game, Forgue scored on a fast-break layup getting the Cards back to within a point, 40-39.
Bronniman then took advantage of another fast break layup grabbing the lead for the Cards, 41-40 with just over 4:00 minutes remaining and Gomez added a 3-ball with 3:00 minutes to go leaving the score at 50-48 with the Cards still down.
That was the closest the Cards got as the Eagles finished the game hitting their free throws.
Gomez ended up with 23 points, Martinez added another double-double with 10 points and 15 rebounds.
McClave will be hit pretty hard with graduation as they lose four quality seniors, three of which started for the Cards, including Martinez, Gomez, Kolten Smartt, and Braden Marks.