BROOMFIELD — Mike Croell knew it was going to be an emotional night.
But there was still a basketball game to play.
And after Tuesday night’s Sweet 16 victory in the Rhonda Blanford-Green Region of the Class 5A state tournament over Pine Creek 73-53, there are still more to play.
“It’s a testament to the girls. I know in the back of their mind they start thinking about this kind of stuff,” said Croell, who coached his final game in the Eagles Gym after 20 years of patrolling the sideline.“Never mind that there is always that sense of finality in one of these state games.”
After the game, Croell was honored by some of his colleagues — notably principal Ginger Ramsey, athletic director Steve Shelton, football coach Gary Davies and his longtime assistant Ben Vagher — in a postgame ceremony that saw the stands decorated with many of his former players.
“You stack this thing on top of it and I’m just so proud of how they kept it together,” Croell said.
The top-seeded Eagles (23-2) advance to the Great 8 for the 20th consecutive season under Croell — their first in 5A — and will play No. 2 Lakewood (20-5) on Friday at the Denver Coliseum. The Tigers dispatched Grandview 86-83 on Tuesday night.
It was an inspired effort from Broomfield right out of the gate. The hosts jumped out to a 17-3 lead on the Colorado Springs-based foe and looked good doing it, especially on the defensive end.
Pine Creek turned the ball over seven times in the first period and shot just 4 for 14 from the field in falling behind 20-6 after eight minutes.
But Broomfield wasn’t able to hold the lead and Pine Creek slowly climbed back into it behind its big three of Jayne Lydiatt, Spencer Lindsey and Emma List. The visiting Eagles cut the lead to 31-30 with under two minutes to play before halftime.
“Pine Creek was unbelievable, they just kept coming back and coming back,” said Croell, who has amassed a 454-69 record during his tenure.
It was still a one-possession game late in the third and Broomfield’s Callie Kaiser was playing with foul trouble. She went to the bench with her fourth at the 1:07 mark.
Croell turned to his inside force, Brenna Fankell, who was huge in the final 10 minutes of game time. Fankell grabbed big rebounds and scored 13 of her 19 points in the final two quarters.
“We just tried to push through even when we weren’t playing our best,” Fankell said. “I just kept playing strong, going up for those rebounds was a really big help.”
Said Croell of Fankell’s play: “She just keeps growing and getting better and better with every game. She’s always been good, but the girls are getting more and more confident in her and she’s doing her thing.”
Broomfield hit its free throws down the stretch, going 15 for 15 in the second half, including 13 for 13 in the fourth quarter. Nicole Lehrer was huge, hitting all eight of her attempts in the fourth, and so too was Brenna Chase in going 4 for 4.
“You never want (a scare), but I think it’s one of those little growing things,” Croell said. “We’ll grow from this and say hey, we are not invincible and on any given night in this crazy tournament, anything can happen.”
Chase led Broomfield with 21 points, Fankell finished with 19, Lehrer with 16 and Kaiser 14 in a balanced offensive attack.
Pine Creek was paced by Lindsey, who scored 21 before fouling out. List added 14 in the losing effort.
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Broomfield 73, Pine Creek 53
At Broomfield HS
PINE CREEK (18-7)
Mikayla McKeehan 0 0-0 0, Jayne Lydiatt 2 0-0 5, Mackenzie Collins 0 0-2 0, Caitlin Esterle 2 2-4 6, Jade Odom 0 0-2 0, Spencer Lindsey 8 4-7 21, Emma List 5 4-5 14, Courtney Stanton 3 0-0 7. Totals 20 10-20 53.
Callie Kaiser 4 4-4 14, Katie Stirling 0 0-0 0, Fallyn Reed 0 0-0 0, Maddie Kern 1 0-0 3, Nicole Lehrer 3 10-11 16, Brenna Chase 7 6-6 21, Brenna Fankell 8 3-4 19, Delaynie Byrne 0 0-0 0. Totals 23 23-25 73.
Score by quarters:
Pine Creek 11 19 9 14 — 53
Broomfield 20 16 12 25 — 73
3-point field goals — Pine Creek (3): Lydiatt, Lindsey, Stanton; Broomfield (4): Kaiser 2, Kern, Chase. Total fouls — Pine Creek 20; Broomfield 16. Fouled out — Lydiatt, Lindsey.