Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer
DENVER — Frederick’s sparkling run into high school’s Class 4A Final Four followed seven years without a postseason victory. And inside the Denver Coliseum Friday night, it wouldn’t end without first putting a scare into the classification’s only undefeated squad.
Bryce Conover scored 17 points in his final high school game, senior Jacoby Conway and junior Matias Aldana each had 10, and the last of the local teams left in the basketball playoff tournaments “grinded and fought” before falling to Pueblo South, 67-56.
“We kept fighting and kept grinding, and that’s what this team has been about all year,” Frederick coach Jeff Conway said. “We were down a couple times at half this year and kept grinding and found ways to win. Luck just ran out.”
Frederick’s run to its first Final Four since 1956 saw a perfect finish in the 4A Longs Peak League, followed by Jacoby Conway’s buzzer-beating layup to beat D’Evelyn in the Sweet 16 and a convincing win afterward over defending champion Mead.
A lot of the reason for it was their offensive efficiency, especially from the perimeter, where the Warriors came into the night fourth in the classification with 184 3s on the season. Their ability to wipe out deficits was key, too — but both wavered just enough at the Coliseum, ending their season.
The second-seeded Colts feasted defensively, disrupting passing lanes as they exchanged midcourt steals for fast-break layups in building their lead to double digits in the second quarter. No. 6 Frederick in turn struggled finding its patented deep ball, going just 5-of-17 from 3. It also finished with 16 turnovers at the half and 23 overall, its most this season.
“Anytime you would catch the ball, there were two of them on you,” Jacoby Conway said. “They just fly around. And it’s so hard to see them coming because they’re so fast.”
Despite it, the Warriors wouldn’t go away. They trimmed a 16-point deficit to 10 into the late moments. Luke Justice scored five straight in the final minutes, including an and-one, and Harry Singh’s bucket clipped the Colts’ lead to 60-50 with 1:57 remaining.
South, though, sealed things with five free throws in the final minute. As it celebrated, Frederick reflected.
“When we beat Mead last week, I think we started to realize how much we were actually doing for our town,” Conover said. “There were literally middle school kids coming up to us, asking for autographs, pictures. I think once it hit that we were going to the Coliseum — I mean you can see there are thousands of people up there cheering us on — we started to realize how much we were doing for our community and how much we were doing for these kids.”
Conover snapped an opening scoreless drought of 3:43 with a deep swish, spurring a 9-0 run that put the Warriors in control in the first. After another pair of misfires from deep, Singh stripped away a loose board and tapped in a shot as Frederick led 13-8 at the close of the period.
But South answered emphatically in the second. Led by decorated coach Shannan Lane, who won a title as a player and the girls’ coach for the school (and is now one win away from the hoops trifecta), the Colts outscored the Warriors 20-4 in the frame to take a 28-17 lead into the break.
Maurice Austin scored 12 in the quarter by himself and finished with 19. Brother Tarrance had eight in the frame and finished with 23 to lead the Colts. They will face No. 1 Lewis-Palmer in the 4A finals Saturday.
“It’s been amazing, it’s been so fun,” Jacoby said inside the Coliseum tunnels afterward. “Five years ago, we went 1-22, 2-21 (in 2015). It’s insane how far we’ve come.”