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Dolores’ Chandler Smith secures 2A all-staters’ win

Dolores’ Chandler Smith (10) receives complimentary gear and her certificate of being named a 2023 Colorado Coaches of Girls' Sports All-State Basketball Games Class 2A selection, prior to action Sunday morning, March 19, at Grandview High School in Aurora. (Joel Priest/Special to The Journal)
Senior nets game-winning hoop, deflects pass as clock winds down

Possibly the most unassuming pick for an all-star basketball game, Dolores’ Chandler Smith on Sunday morning ensured that even if patrons and players wouldn’t remember her name, they’d remember her winning basket in the 2023 Colorado Coaches of Girls Sports All-State Basketball Games’ Class 2A feature.

Blue teammate Daisy Palacio (Edwards Vail Christian) had put the designated home side up 40-38 with two clutch free throws, only to see state champion Sedgwick County’s Jensen Renquist – the CHSAA record-holder for made FTs in a game (24-of-26 on Jan. 24, 2020) – answer with two of her own.

And though Blue failed to immediately respond, they would when Red’s subsequent possession ended with Greeley Dayspring Christian’s Lily Beauvais leading a fast break and zipping a cross-court pass through multiple defenders to an unguarded Smith, merely filling her assigned lane, for a likely layup.

Dolores’ Chandler Smith (10) tries driving around Burlington's Whitney Cure (4) during the recent 2023 Colorado Coaches of Girls' Sports All-State Basketball Games' Class 2A feature at Grandview High School in Aurora. (Joel Priest/Special to The Journal)
Dolores' Chandler Smith (10) returns excitedly to the 2A-Blue team's bench after postgame handshakes in the wake of a 42-40 win Sunday morning, March 19, over Red at the 2023 Colorado Coaches of Girls' Sports All-State Basketball Games. (Joel Priest/Special to The Journal)

With ball in hand, the Dolores Bears senior knew she had to do just one simple thing.

“Honestly, not freak out!” she said afterward. “And stay calm; this was such a big deal. I can’t believe that a little small-town person like me made it all the way here.”

Moments later the hoop would go into history as the clincher, after Smith deflected the pass of Simla’s Jillian Nipple, targeting Renquist cutting into the paint, into the hands of Blue teammate Avery Hughes (Fort Collins Heritage Christian Academy) just before time expired inside Grandview High School’s gymnasium.

“It looked like a big school but the gym felt familiar … wasn’t too big – like, stadium-sized – and felt nice to be able to play in,” Smith said. “It’s an amazing honor to be here; to represent my family and Dolores … feels like a dream come true.”

Smith and Hayden’s Isabella Svoboda each finished with eight points in victory, though Blue went an iffy 3-of-10 from the free-throw line. Dayspring’s Aliya McClanahan racked up a game-high 15 points, Hughes scored five, and Beauvais two. The only other 2A player besides Smith selected from a squad finishing below .500 this winter, Palacio posted four points.

“Other all-stars from other teams … I just feel like it clicks with those people,” said Smith, who played for Dayspring skipper Tina Beauvais and assistant Kris Bayne. “And being able to be there, see and have that connection. ... It’s so much more than a basketball game at that point.”

Renquist registered 11 points in defeat, and Del Norte’s Abigail Rivera finished with nine – including a surprise 3-pointer tying the game at 38-38 with 2:29 left in regulation. Wray’s Larissa Salmans and Wiggins’ Raelyn Koenig each scored seven points for head coach Scott Dille (SC) and assistant Melanie Godsey (Wray), and Nipple nailed two treys for her six.