DENVER | When they arrived four years ago, the current seniors on the Eaglecrest boys basketball team came into a program that had just won a Class 5A state championship.
That was the 2012-13 season, when coach John Olander led the Raptors to the school’s first state title with a victory over Denver East. So the new group inherited expectations — and belief — that winning a state championship might be possible for them someday.
That day turned out to be Saturday, when Eaglecrest’s six seniors — Colbey Ross, Nate Bokol, Ikenna Ozor, Austin Forsberg, Joshua Walton and Jamey Rich — walked off in style with a gritty 53-47 victory over George Washington in the 5A state championship game.
The Raptors (24-4) also sent Olander off the floor with a state championship in his final game as head coach after a lengthy run on the bench that got particularly successful at the end with four Final Four appearances, three trips to the final and two state championships in the past five seasons.
To deliver the storybook ending for their coach, Eaglecrest had to overcome an athletic, hungry George Washington team that was in the state final for the first time since 2009, when it lost to another Aurora team, Regis Jesuit.
The Raptors’ seniors rose to the occasion when they needed it in the second half, which they entered facing a six-point deficit. Ross gave Eaglecrest a one-point lead with a cold-blooded 3-pointer just before the horn in the third quarter, which launched a 12-0 Raptors’ run.
Opening the fourth quarter, Walton made a layup and took a charge on the other end of the floor, then two layups and a free throw from junior Victor Garnes and an Ozor bucket as Eaglecrest went up 42-32 with 6:26 remaining.
The Raptors fended off various runs from the Patriots, who had a 15-game winning streak snapped and were held to nearly half of their season scoring average of 84 points per game.
Ross finished with a game-high 15 points and Ozor had 12, Walton contributed six points and drew three charges, Forsberg knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and Bokol chipped in three points and banged inside with the Patriots’ post players.
Coming off a fantastic football season that came up short of the state championship Eaglecrest wanted, Garnes added 11 points and was steady handling the ball and making free throws when George Washington got desperate.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
(1) EAGLECREST 53, (3) GEORGE WASHINGTON 47
Score by quarters:
Geo. Washington 12 10 10 15 — 47
Eaglecrest 9 7 17 20 — 53
GEORGE WASHINGTON (47)
Jon’il Fugett 1 0-0 3, Calvin Fugett Jr. 2 2-4 6, Tre Pierce 5 0-0 10, Jervay Green 3 2-4 8, Shaheem Speer 3 3-3 10, Mohammad Diallo 3 2-2 8, Ronald Johnson 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 9-13 47.
Victor Garnes 3 4-7 11, Colbey Ross 4 6-6 15, Austin Forsberg 2 0-0 6, Ikenna Ozor 5 2-2 12, Nate Bokol 1 1-2 3, Josh Walton 2 2-4 6, XaiV’ion Hatch-Jackson 0 0-0 0, Morgan Brown 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 15-21 53.
3-point field goals — George Washington (2): Jon’il Fuggett, Shaheem Speer; Eaglecrest (4): Austin Forsberg 2, Victor Garnes, Colbey Ross. Total fouls — George Washington 21, Eaglecrest 15. Fouled out — None. Technical fouls — None.