Denver – Bayfield High School will have to make some more room in its trophy case.
For the first time in school history, the BHS boys basketball team is state champions after the Wolverines blew through the title game for a 68-57 victory against Lutheran in the Colorado High School Athletics Association Class 3A state championship game Saturday at Hamilton Gymnasium on the University of Denver campus.
“This is the greatest feeling I’ve ever felt,” Bayfield junior Turner Kennedy said. “Putting in all that work and have it all pay off in the end is wonderful. This is what we’ve wanted our whole lives.”
Hayden Farmer could not be stopped in the first quarter. The junior connected on three 3-pointers and scored 13 points in the first quarter to push Bayfield to a 21-5 lead at the end of the quarter.
“I was hungry. I wanted another state championship,” Farmer said, referencing Bayfield’s state football title from November. “I wanted to go out and do it for these seniors because they wanted it really bad. Before the game, I was like, ‘I’m going to play my butt off for the entire game, and that’s how it’s going to be.’”
While Farmer filled it up on the offensive end, the Wolverines as a whole dominated on the defensive end. They forced the Lions into tough shots, put constant pressure on the ball and forced several turnovers.
Bayfield’s offense cooled from its blistering start in the first quarter, but the defense remained to help the Wolverines extend their lead to 32-9 with about three minutes remaining before halftime.
“The familiarity breeds success. We’ve been in this gym three straight nights and we were due,” BHS head coach Jeff Lehnus said of the hot start. “We didn’t shoot well the first two games, but we believed tonight. We pride ourselves on defense and playing with intensity and rebounding and finding enough offense to win, but tonight the shooters showed up and got us to a nice early lead.”
In the final few minutes of the second quarter, Lutheran picked up its intensity on defense and forced a few Bayfield turnovers in a row, which they turned into baskets. Behind the sudden awakening of the Lions, they closed the half on a 12-2 run to send the game to halftime with Bayfield in front 34-21.
“I just wanted everyone to relax,” Bayfield’s Turner Kennedy said of Lutheran’s run. “I could tell we were getting kind of jittery and we made some bad plays and had some bad turnovers, but we calmed down and that’s all that matters.”
Lutheran continued to cut into Bayfield’s lead in the third quarter and got the deficit back to single digits with a pair of free throws that made it 36-28 with 4:04 remaining in the quarter.
The single-digit score differential didn’t last long, as Bayfield’s McKay Wells scored a few seconds later to get the lead back to double digits.
The Wolverines maintained the double-digit lead and took a 45-32 advantage into the final quarter.
The Lions got the deficit to single digits a couple times in the fourth quarter, but each time the Wolverines answered right back to get the lead back to 10 or more.
Kennedy broke out of a shooting slump in the game and connected on a couple of timely 3s to help quiet any runs the Lions made.
“It was great to see. Turner has been grinding,” Farmer said of Kennedy’s performance. “This and track are his two sports, and he grinds in basketball. For him to see the success and get his first (state championship) ring, I’m just so happy for him.”
Farmer finished with 17 points to lead the Wolverines. Ryan Phelps added 16 points, eight of which came in the fourth quarter. and Kennedy ended the night with 13 points.
Dax Snooks made it four Wolverines in double figures with 11 points, and Keyon Prior and McKay Wells added five points each to round out Bayfield’s scoring.
Kole Brandon led Lutheran with 17 points.
The Bayfield faithful showed up for the game and made their presence felt. In each of the Wolverines’ three games, their student section grew and more members of the community filled the bleachers in Hamilton Gym.
“This community supports us so well and we wanted to give something back to them,” Kennedy said. “We won a football state championship and we really wanted one for basketball, the town wanted one for basketball and we gave it to them, and that’s what they deserve.”
The championship is the culmination of a long process to get the Wolverines into state contention. BHS reached the state semifinals in 1986, then suffered a 30-year tournament quarterfinal drought and didn’t make it back to the Great Eight until 2015.
The Wolverines had reached the title game twice before, in 1966 and 1970. They lost to Wiggins 63-56 in 1966 and Merino 67-52 in 1970.
The state basketball title adds to a great year at BHS. The Wolverines won the Class 2A state football title in November. The last time the football and boys basketball state titles went to the same school was in 2010-11 when Faith Christian accomplished the feat.
“It means Bayfield is hungry and you better watch out for Bayfield,” said Farmer, who was the starting quarterback for the football team. “The whole metro area doesn’t really pay attention to us and we’re starting to make noise now. People are starting to respect us, and the way you get respect is by winning and that’s what we’ve been doing.”