BAYFIELD – Behind the hot shooting of Hayden Farmer, the dunk show from Ryan Phelps and all-around quality play from Turner Kennedy and the rest of the Wolverines, the Bayfield High School boys basketball team punched its ticket to Denver.
The No. 7 Wolverines (16-7) smelled blood early and raced out to a double-digit lead before No. 23 The Academy (17-7) scored its first basket with 2 minutes, 20 seconds to play in the first quarter. BHS continued the onslaught and rolled to a 73-46 victory in the second round of the Colorado High School Activities Association Class 3A state tournament.
“We played great defense, especially in the first quarter,” said Bayfield senior Ryan Phelps. “We came out both nights of these regionals getting up by 15 points early. That was great, and then we had other people score it a lot besides me and Hayden. Turner and Dax (Snooks) both were getting big buckets. It was good team ball.”
Now, BHS will travel Thursday to Denver to play in the “Great Eight.” The Wolverines will meet arch rival Alamosa (20-3) in the state quarterfinals at 5:30 p.m. at the University of Denver. No. 2 Alamosa rolled past No. 31 Cedaredge 61-20 and No. 15 Grand Valley 57-39 to reach the quarterfinals. Alamosa beat Bayfield twice in the regular season, but the Wolverines knocked off the Mean Moose 57-53 on Feb. 24 in Alamosa to win the 3A Intermountain League tournament championship.
“Here we go, final eight up at (University of Denver),” said BHS head coach Jeff Lehnus. “Once again we have Alamosa. We know each other well. There aren’t going to be too many surprises playing each other a fourth time. That doesn’t bother us at all. We’re excited to go play, and we don’t care who is across from us up there.”
BHS’ defense was potent Saturday against The Academy. The Wildcats, who come from Westminster, turned the ball over 10 times before making their first shot from the field. Bayfield took a 20-5 lead after one quarter and cruised to the win.
A night after earning a 67-66 upset win against No. 10 Resurrection Christian, the Wildcats didn’t have the legs to keep up with the Wolverines. And the 10 turnovers early were too much to overcome.
“Against a good team like Bayfield, it was obviously impossible today,” said The Academy coach Ken Rutt. “They shot well, too, on top of our turnovers. We came out flat. (Friday’s game) was a good game, a good emotional win, but it showed (Saturday).”
Behind the hot shooting of Farmer, who scored 13 of his game-high 27 points in the first half, the Wolverines built a 38-15 lead at halftime.
“I found my rhythm,” Farmer said. “Getting inside and getting to the foul line, I’m a good free-throw shooter, and that helps me get in a groove and I just stayed in that groove.”
Farmer made four 3-pointers in the game. Ryan Phelps came out and took control of the third quarter with back-to-back dunks. He finished with 15 points, 16 rebounds, five steals and three blocked shots. Turner Kennedy added 15 points, as he started in place of McKay Wells, who played limited minutes off the bench with an ankle injury.
Kennedy, a junior, made most of his shots from under the basket, as he took advantage of the double-team focus given to Phelps to get wide-open looks. Kennedy said he has thrived in the starting role.
“When I get a rebound and make a shot and hear the crowd roar, it’s exciting,” Kennedy said. “When I start, I have to get my mind extra ready, and I get hyped up. I like hearing my name in introductions, it gives me energy.”
The Academy tried to get back into the game in the third quarter behind good 3-point shooting but could never get closer than a 16-point deficit. Isaac Gallegos led the Wildcats with 17 points, 12 of which came in the third quarter.
“This team battled all year,” Rutt said of his Wildcats. “Great heart. We had 17 wins, a regional game. I’m very proud of them.”
Snooks added eight points and five rebounds for the Wolverines, and Farmer had four assists.
The win helped BHS erase the bad memory of a first-round home loss to Delta in last year’s state tournament. Now, the Wolverines will head to Denver with loftier goals.
“While we celebrated today, we didn’t celebrate as if this was the end game,” Lehnus said. “The guys, while we’re happy to get this, we’re not done yet. That’s exactly where we want to be. We had an objective and achieved it, but this was not the objective. The boys want more and are determined to go get it.
“The word ‘finish’ has been our moniker for awhile. We say, ‘embrace the dream,’ of getting to state and doing something at state, too. This year, we had some early losses early yet we were in some of those games. Then we had two tough losses in a row to Alamosa but came back to beat them at their place, and then we came back here and erased the disappointment of last year by winning both of these games. Now, we’re hungry.”
Alamosa and Bayfield will both be eager to eliminate the other from the state tournament. The winner of Thursday’s game will go to the final four and be guaranteed two more games. The loser will go home.
“It’s a pretty big deal,” Phelps said. “Alamosa is a great team, you gotta give them that. We got the last win, they got the first two. We’re hoping to go up there, give it everything we’ve got and even it up between the two of us and get to the semifinals.”