ALAMOSA - Having started the second half of the 2018 Colorado High School Coaches Association Games' championship with a basket inside, Bayfield's Ryan Phelps then hustled a defensive rebound back into the offensive end to record one of the most unexpected stats of his decorated prep career.
"I never thought I'd give Isaiah Griego an assist!" he stated, referring to the Pagosa Springs star and 3A Intermountain League rival, who received Phelps' pass and canned a three-pointer from the corner with their 'Black' teammates roaring from the bench area behind him. "I mean, I was laughing on the way down after I threw that."
"It was fun to have them playing with each other for once, than against each other!" said BHS head coach and Black boss Jeff Lehnus, assisted at the event by Wolverine aide Trent Phelps. "And they enjoyed that too; it was neat to see them bond a little bit, and beyond the court."
2A Ignacio's John Valdez, 2A Sanford's Zach Sittler and 2A Del Norte's Carlos Parra adding even more southwestern flavor to his squad's mixture. The players blended together almost immediately in the previous day's semifinals, registering a habanero-hot first quarter which held up as the Games' highest-scoring stanza.
"When you can run, you can run, and we had legs there for the first quarter! I mean, when you can show out, score 43 points in the first quarter? That's crazy," Ryan Phelps said, reflecting upon the 10-minute terror Black inflicted upon Blue, ultimately leading to a 106-93 win inside Adams State University's Plachy Hall.
"It was just great to connect with people that I've played against, and known for so long," said Valdez, the tenth of Black's 10 players to score during the opening onslaught (Blue managed just 15 points in response). "And we really came together chemistry-wise right away; I think we showed that in the first game."
Having scored nine of the intimidating 43 points, Phelps finished the victory with 13 points. Griego logged 14 and Valdez four, while 1A Weston Primero's Vince Damelio, known for a 61-point performance during the 2017-18 season, led the crew with 20 points, including nine via three first-quarter treys. He'd totalled four three-pointers as Black drained 10 all told, including one by Phelps.
5A Northglenn's Kevin Jimenez scored a Blue-best 25 in defeat, with 2A Edwards Vail Christian's Sebastian Moritz and 3A Greeley Frontier Academy's Zach Hidalgo each booking 15 in support.
Black tasted something of its own medicine in the June 9 finale and fell behind 30-27 after one frame, with the enemy's first four baskets worth three points each.
Trailing 56-50 at halftime, despite Damelio igniting and sinking three second-quarter threes, Black lost just enough ground after intermission and went into the fourth quarter down 81-68 en route to losing 100-91.
"This Red team, they were pretty good, but we just made a lot of mistakes down the line," said Valdez, who again scored four points. "Took too many shots early on and we kind of dug ourselves a hole."
"Lost our legs a little, but still had a lot of fun," Phelps (six points) said. "We were still going pretty hard."
"That other team had several bigs and some strength inside," said Lehnus, alluding particularly to 4A Widefield's 6'5" Tre Pierre (20 points), 4A Edwards Battle Mountain's 6'7" Devin Huffman (five) and 1A Blanca Sierra Grande's 6'2" Arthur Rodriguez (12). "The boys competed, never quit going at it, and they played together. Everybody contributed, and it was my pleasure to work with, not only talented young men, but good young men."
"Very coachable, and they were very complimentary towards each other. Just a neat experience."
5A Highlands Ranch Rock Canyon's Tyson Gilbert scored a game-high 21 points for the victors, while 4A Colorado Springs Mesa Ridge's Deven Nelson pumped in 18 points to lead Black - which sank 16 threes (out of 32 total field goals) to Red's 12 - in the loss.
Parra and Damelio each finished with 14, and 5A Westminster Mountain Range's Michael Polson also hit double figures with ten points, as no Black participant scored fewer than four in either contest.
"It was a great experience with these guys - feeding everybody the basketball, moving freely and not having a huge load on my back the whole time," said Valdez.
"Everyone here can play basketball.that's for sure!" Phelps stated. "When I saw the roster for the first time and I'm seeing that I've got a Pagosa kid and an Ignacio kid on my team, I wasn't really sure what to expect. But playing with all these small-town kids, I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. It was just a pleasure to play with all the best players. It was the time of a life!"