Grandview edges Cherry Creek, advances to girls 6A finals

Sienna Betts let it all go and let her tears flow.

When the Grandview High sophomore center finally composed herself, she explained her emotions.

“Earlier in the season nobody ever thought we would get here, and nobody believed in us — except us. Now here we are,” Betts said after scoring 16 points and snaring 15 rebounds to lead the Wolves to a rugged, 31-28 victory over Cherry Creek in the Class 6A semifinals of the girls’ state basketball tournament Friday at the Denver Coliseum.

No. 11 Grandview (18-9), seeking to repeat after beating Valor in last year’s title game, faces the winner of Friday afternoon’s semifinal between Arapahoe and Monarch.

In no way, shape, or form is this the same Grandview team that got blown out by second-seeded Cherry Creek, 56-40, on Feb. 1.

“As coaches, we were watching film and this is not even the same team — at all,” coach Josh Ulitzky said. “Sienna is our stalwart, obviously, but every one of our other kids has improved so much. I credit the girls so much for trusting each other.”

Second-seeded Cherry Creek’s mission was clear from the beginning: stop Betts. And early on, the Bruins’ swarming defense overwhelmed Grandview, clogging the passing lanes. The Wolves committed six turnovers before they made their first bucket.

At halftime, Creek led 14-12, with 11 points coming off 14 Grandview turnovers.

“That was just brutal,” Ulitzky said. “But I told the girls at halftime that, ‘Hey, we’ve given ourselves a shot after all of those turnovers. It’s just one bucket, we’re right there.”

The Bruins had a chance to establish a much bigger lead but they shot just 6 of 24 from the field in the first half, including 1 of 8 from 3-point land.

The second half was a game of momentum shifts. Behind back-to-back 3-points by seniors Sydnie McClain and Isa Dillehay, and four straight free throws by Betts, Grandview went on a 10-0 run to take a 22-14 lead.

But back came the Bruins behind sophomore guard Tianna Chambers, who scored a team-high 10 points. She scored on a driving layup and then went to the line and made three of four free throws after Betts was called for a foul and a technical. Betts earned her “T” by slamming the ball to the court in frustration.

Suddenly, Grandview’s big lead had been trimmed to 22-19 entering the fourth quarter.

When Creek’s A’Neya Chambers made two foul shots and Mireya Johnson swished a 3-pointer, the Bruins recaptured the lead, 26-24, with 2:23 left.

Crunch time was Betts’ time, with a big assist to Lexi Yi, whose 3-pointer put Grandview ahead, 27-26. But then A’Neya Chambers went coast to coast for a layup for a 28-27 Bruins lead with 1:37 left.

Grandview recaptured the lead, 29-28, on Dillehay’s two free throws. But when Betts missed back-to-back free throws, the door was left open for the Bruins. But Addison Beck’s open 3-pointer rimmed out and Betts sank two foul shots to ice the game.

“I just knew I had to make those free throws and I put the rest in the back of my mind,” Betts said, who credited her basketball trainer, Derek Griffin, for teaching her to get her in the right mindset in crunch time.

Grandview, which won last year’s title behind Betts’ older sister, Lauren, who is a freshman at Stanford, is seeking its fourth title state title in six years.

“We were the 11th seed, so we had to overcome a lot of adversity to get here,” Dillehay said. “And today we showed a lot of patience. And we have talked about that all season and that helped us today.”

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