DENVER - The Bayfield High School boys basketball team will play for a state championship for the third time in school history. And the Wolverines' path to the championship will never be forgotten.
With the Colorado High School Activities Association Class 3A semifinal game against No. 6 Faith Christian tied at 42 with less than 40 seconds to play, No. 7 BHS forced the turnover of the season. Hayden Farmer scooped up the ball for a steal and found Turner Kennedy with a pass on the right side of the floor. Kennedy advanced the ball down the right side, made a move back to the middle of the court and found a wide open Dax Snooks for the game-winning layup with 1.2 seconds remaining.
"I was just focusing so hard on putting it in," Snooks said of the final basket. "...Turner said he was looking at Keyon (Prior), but Keyon fell down so he looked back to the left and saw me."
Bayfield (18-7) added one more point after a wacky timeout mishap by Faith Christian to send the No. 7 Wolverines to the title game with a 45-42 victory Friday at Hamilton Gymnasium on the University of Denver campus.
After Snooks' basket, the game clock hit zero, but the referees put 1.2 seconds left on the clock.
Faith Christian (19-7) went to inbound the ball and needed to go the length of the court to try to get a shot. Before they inbounded the ball, the Eagles called time out. They were out of timeouts, and the result was a technical foul.
"That was a little weird," Faith Christian head coach Andrew Hasz said of the technical. "When the clock had been stopped to try to figure out the time, an official came to our bench and told us to get on the floor, that there was no timeout and we had to keep playing. So we assumed there wasn't a timeout called, but I guess the (scorer's) table charged us a timeout. So when we called the timeout, it was a technical. There was miscommunication on that."
Farmer made 1-of-2 free throws after the technical to make it 45-42. Then all the Wolverines had to do was inbound the ball to make it final.
"Ever since last year, we dared to believe that we could be here, and here we are," BHS head coach Jeff Lehnus said. "I'm so proud of them. These wins are a product of their growth and determination and staying together as a team. We play with great passion and intensity, and they've learned to harness that and keep it focused."
It was a tightly contested first half that saw Bayfield's Ryan Phelps and Faith Christian's Jonah Gardner trade baskets.
Phelps hit a 3-pointer late in the first quarter that gave the Wolverines a 12-9 lead to start the second. Phelps had 11 of Bayfield's 18 points at halftime.
In the second quarter, Gardner took over and scored eight of the Eagles' 13 points in the quarter, including a steal and score in the final few seconds that sent the game to halftime with Faith Christian in front 22-18. He also had 11 points at halftime.
During halftime, the Wolverines were on the verge of self-destruction.
"The whole year, we've had a problem with bickering at each other, and at half we started to lose it," Prior said. "We were talking bad to each other and getting down on each other. Then we realized our mistakes, brought it in and unified as a team. We've come too far to bicker at each other and decided to go out there and have fun."
In the third quarter, Bayfield went on a big run to take the lead back and pushed their advantage to 37-26 before the Eagles mounted a comeback and tied the game at 39 with 5 minutes, 28 seconds remaining in the game.
"Our team has been that way this whole year. They never give up and I'm really proud of them," Hasz said of the comeback. "They worked hard and got themselves back in a spot to win the game, and that's all you can ask for."
Phelps finished with 14 points for Bayfield. Snooks ended with 11 points, all of which came in the second half. Prior cracked double figures with eight of his 10 points coming in the second half, and Farmer finished with eight points.
Gardner and Benjamin Hawkins led Faith Christian with 16 and 15 points, respectively.
The championship appearance is the first in 48 years for the Wolverines. The previous two trips the Wolverines made to the title game came in 1966, with a 63-56 loss to Wiggins, and in 1970, which ended with a 67-52 loss to Merino.
Bayfield will face the winner of No. 1 Sterling (25-0) and No. 12 Lutheran (19-6) in the championship at 6 p.m. Saturday at Hamilton Gymnasium.