Pulling a rebound away from Springfield’s Brakelle Westphal and two other 1A Red players, not long after Blue teammate Peyton Nicklas buried a go-ahead 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter, Dove Creek’s Lexi Gray set in motion a sequence of predictable fouls, putting Blue at the free-throw line in hopes of saving precious seconds Sunday morning, March 19.
Problem was, Red had several fouls to give before putting Blue into the one-and-one bonus, and Blue made sure it took their opponents in the 2023 Colorado Coaches of Girls’ Sports All-State Basketball Games’ Class 1A feature as long as possible before taking any sort of hack, push, trip, chicken-wing, etc.
Gray, with 15.8 ticks left in regulation, would be the recipient of one such infraction, and Dove Creek’s Rylee Hickman then took contact with intent exactly three seconds later. Finally, after dribbling between Westphal and Kiowa’s Kendra Byrd in the backcourt and receiving a two-handed shove in the back from the latter, Hickman was awarded the opportunity to attempt two potentially-clinching FTs with 0:04.6 remaining.
Smiling broadly as she stepped to the stripe, she coolly cashed both tries to ice a come-from-behind, 53-49 victory – Red had led 44-37 beginning the final frame, and still led 49-48 with just 1:09 to go – at Grandview High School.
“It was awesome, especially because that was – definitely – the last time I’ll ever shoot free throws!” a still-grinning Hickman said after exiting the gymnasium. “All season I didn’t really run (point), which was totally fine with me, but we didn’t have a ‘true’ point guard on our little all-star team. So they were like ‘You’re running it!’ I was like, ‘OK!’ A few times I forgot stuff … but it was still awesome.”
Playing for state champion Briggsdale’s coaching staff of Colin Nicklas, Cody Brunelle and Nikki White at the Games, Hickman and Gray each scored eight points – trailing only the nine registered by both La Veta’s Kendyl Eddleman and Idalia’s Jenna Wieser. And after Blue fell behind 13-8 after one quarter of play, Wieser converted an ‘and-one’ 3-point play with 0:15.5 left in the second, tying the score at 29-29 entering halftime.
“We switched to a man-to-man defense to get them off the three(s),” Gray said, “and it really helped with getting steals and getting down the court to our end … and scoring.”
“They do have some good 3-point shooters; they were shooting 5 feet off of that line!” said Hickman.
Genoa-Hugo’s Baylee Kelly contributed seven points, while Nicklas and BHS teammate Macie Klem each totaled six for the triumphant side. Granada’s Kiana Herrera made two of Red’s eight treys and totaled a game-high 12 points in defeat. GHS teammate Trinidie Quintana sank one in totaling nine points, while Byrd equaled Eddleman’s game-high three triples for her nine.
Coached by KHS’ staff of Rick Carothers, Julea Carothers and Bailea Carothers, plus 4A Greeley University assistant Ashlea Carothers, Red went 5-of-7 from the foul line; Blue ended up a perfect 4-of-4.
“I honestly didn’t think I’d actually be here,” Hickman said. “Being here’s truly amazing; I definitely encourage other girls to push to get here. I can’t thank everyone enough for their help, and the heart that my team had in getting me here.”
“I’m really glad that she got to come too; it was a lot of fun to play with her one more time, get to have this experience with her,” said Gray. “It was difficult to get to know, like, other players on my team, but it was super-fun. Means a lot.”