Colbey Ross sat alone. The hood of his sweatshirt rested on the head of the Eaglecrest point guard. He stared straight ahead as music thumped through his earphones.
Ross was finding his zone two hours before he would close his storied career in the Class 5A boys state championship game against George Washington. He was playing in his second consecutive title game and third straight final four.
Only one thing had escaped him: a state championship.
So Ross came out and took one.
Ross closed one of the most storied careers in recent state history by scoring a game-high 15 points and leading Eaglecrest to a thrilling 53-47 win at the Denver Coliseum late Saturday night.
"This means so much to me and my brothers and our coach," Ross said. "It means a lot. It just shows how much heart we have as a team."
The victory came in the final game for Eaglecrest coach John Olander, who capped a coaching career that spanned more than a quarter century with his second state title at the school, adding to the championship he won in 2013.
"There's just so many people to thank for me getting to this position," Olander said. "I'm just so happy for these kids. You can't even dream this. I can't believe this happened. It's not supposed to happen this way."
Olander left everything on the Coliseum floor, urging his players to stick to the plan as they were blanketed by George Washington's athletic perimeter defenders through the first quarter.
But Ross, playing at Pepperdine next season, has always displayed an impressive knack for timing. He had done so one night earlier, when his clutch 3-pointer helped Eaglecrest overcome a late deficit to beat Rock Canyon.
Eaglecrest had already erased a nine-point deficit when Ross eyed the clock as the third-quarter clock ticked down Saturday. Then he buried a 3-pointer that put Eaglecrest up 33-32. The shot opened the floodgates.
"I just know I'm made for these moments," Ross said. "That's the biggest thing for me. When the time comes for me to make a shot, I'm going to make it."
Eaglecrest swarmed on defense to open the fourth quarter and turned that energy into a 9-0 run to take a 42-32 lead. Two athletic finishes by Victor Garnes during the run helped Eaglecrest wrestle momentum that had belonged to defensively dominant George Washington for much of the game.
George Washington didn't relent. The Patriots had used tireless defensive energy all season to earn a shot at their first state title since 1994. Jon'il Fugett, a tenacious junior guard, had limited Ross to only four points in the first half.
But with 1:28 left and Eaglecrest leading 48-41, Ross drove to the basket and drew a foul. He calmly knocked down both free throws to extend the lead to nine points, giving the Raptors the final edge they needed to hold on.
Ross and Olander embraced with a hug on the court when the buzzer sounded, two storied careers ending with a championship moment.
"We're going out at the top of our careers," Ross said. "Me and my coach."
George Washington: 12 10 10 15 — 47
Eaglecrest: 9 7 17 20 — 53
George Washington — J. Fugett 1 2-2 3, Diallo 3 2-2 8, White 1 0-0 2, C. Fugett 2 2-4 6, Pierce 5 0-0 10, Green 3 2-4 8, Speer 3 3-3 10. Team: 18 9-13 47.
Eaglecrest — Garnes 3 4-7 11, Ross 4 6-6 15, Forsberg 2 0-0 6, Walton 2 2-4 6, Bokol 1 1-2 3, Ozor 5 2-2 12. Team: 17 15-21 53
3-pt. goals: J. Fugett, Speer; Forsberg 2, Garnes, Ross.
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