BROOMFIELD -- After reaching the Class 1A state championship game for the first time in school history, the Shining Mountain boys basketball team couldn't find a way to win one more game and bring the title home to Boulder.
The top-seeded Lions (23-3) were uncharacteristically off from the start of Saturday's championship game at 1stBank Center, and they fell 60-40 to second-seeded McClave.
Despite falling behind early, Andrew Bremner did his best to get the Lions back into the game. The scored senior scored 20 of his game-high 27 points in the second half, but the Lions couldn't catch up to the Cardinals.
"It was my last game in high school so I had to give it everything I had," Bremner said. "We came out a little slow and number 24, he played a great half. Not many shots were falling for us, either. But at halftime, we didn't think we were out of it at all. We just wanted to keep trying hard and that's what happened.
The Lions struggled against the Cardinals' 2-3 zone. They turned the ball over 14 times, nine in the first half. Bremner said the Lions' early struggles and a slow start, combined with 15 first-half points from 6-foot-5 Cardinals senior Cody Canfield, dug too deep a hole for Shining Mountain to climb out of.
The Lions trailed by 26 points to start the fourth quarter but cut the lead to 15 after Canfield fouled out with 5:08 remaining in the game. But while Canfield paced the Cardinals in the first half, sophomore guard Gabe Longworth scored 12 points in the second half and the Cardinals shot 11 of 15 at the free-throw line to thwart each Lions run in the second.
Since they were the top seed and had been outright dominant all week, the Lions fully expected to win the title. But despite the heartache they felt after the game, junior Alex Beal said the 2013 Lions still were proud of sending their school to the big stage for the first time.
"It means a lot because we worked so hard to get to this point," Beal said. "We're all just blessed to be on this team, really. We got to the championship and we just couldn't quite pull it off."
Saturday's loss was a mirror image of the top-seeded Lions' previous two state tournament games. The top-seeded Lions dominated four-time defending champ Caliche 64-40 in the semifinals on Friday night after rolling eighth-seeded Norwood 50-36 in the quarterfinals.
The Cardinals held the Lions, who averaged well over 50 points per game this season, to just four points in the first and third quarters. The Lions also made just six of their 18 free-throw attempts.
"I didn't have them as prepared as I should have," said Shining Mountain coach Enoch Miller, who was as visibly distraught as his players after they all consoled one another in the locker room for over 30 minutes. "They did everything they could, that I asked them to. They worked their tails off. We didn't execute what we were trying to do but it's not their fault at all. It definitely had a lot to do with strategy. That's on me."
The Lions will graduate three starters.
Follow Brad on Twitter: @BradCochi
McClave 60, Shining Mountain 40
At 1stBank Center
Warren 0 0-0 0, Kelley 1 5-6 7, Longworth 7 0-0 17, Geisinger 0 5-8 5, Forgue 0 0-0 0, Miller 0 0-0 0, Trujillo 4 3-5 12, Juarez 1 0-0 2, A. Salazar 0 0-0 0, Canfield 8 1-1 17, G. Salazar 0 0-0 0, Zamora 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 14-20 60.
SHINING MOUNTAIN (23-3)
Bremner 11 2-8 27, Loth 0 0-0 0, Beal 1 1-4 3, R. Feigal 0 0-0 0, Johnson 0 0-0 0, Cantwell 1 1-4 3, L. Feigal 0 0-0 0, Cherin 0 0-0 0, Taliafero 2 2-2 7, Hussey 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 6-18 40.
Score by quarters:
McClave 13 18 12 17 -- 60
Shining Mountain 4 11 4 21 -- 40
3-point field goals -- McClave (4): Longworth 3, Trujillo; Shining Mountain (4): Bremner 3, Taliafero. Total fouls -- McClave 15, Shining Mountain 22. Fouled out -- Canfield, Cantwell. Technical fouls -- None.