DENVER - Heading into the locker room at half, Colorado Springs Christian School girls' basketball coach Mark Engesser had no qualms with the Class 3A state championship being tied at just six points apiece.
In fact, he was happy with it. His No. 4 Lions were getting shots that just hadn't fallen while his defense had contained a Lamar squad that averaged nearly 53 points per game.
But then No. 3 Lamar scored on five of its first eight possessions of the third quarter and rode the quick second-half start to a 24-18 victory over the Lions to claim the 3A title at the University of Denver on Saturday.
At the break, Engesser made sure his players knew he liked the way the game was going.
"I felt great because I thought we were getting good shots, normal shots and they just weren't falling," Engesser said. "They just never fell. It happens."
The tie quickly turned into a seven-point Lamar advantage as it went on an 11-4 run to open the third.
"We were fortunate today," Lamar coach Erik W. Melgoza said.
Lamar (25-2) held Colorado Springs Christian School (24-3) to a season low in points. The Lions' previous low was 34.
Lamar's triangle-and-two defense held Lions' leading scorers Megan Engesser to seven points and Rachel Ingram to zero.
"It was extremely hard (to get shots)," Ingram said. "Their defense is insane and their triangle-and-two on me and Megan, I've never seen a defense like that."
Melgoza knew his team needed to clamp down on those two (who entered the game averaging a combined 31.1 points) if they wanted to win.
"They (the Lions) play at a very high level," Melgoza said. "Excellent kids. Rachel Ingram is one of the best guards in the state."
The Tri-Peaks rivals split their two meetings earlier in the season, with Lamar winning in conference play and the Lions winning in the district tournament. Both teams' last loss was against the other.
But it was Lamar coming out on top in the rubber match, snapping the Lions' 12-game winning streak.
Megan Engesser hit a 3 with 51 seconds left in the third to cut Lamar's lead to 19-13. But the Lions missed their next four shots of the quarter and didn't make another basket until she scored again with 2:22 left in the game, cutting the lead to 24-17. During that stretch of six-plus minutes, the Lions missed six shots and turned the ball over four times.
"They're very physical under the basket," Megan Engesser said. "Every time you try and box them out they're going to shove you in the back. It's just a battle every single possession."
Lamar's Cali Clark scored a game-high nine points. Megan Engesser and Madison Mackie led CSCS with seven.
Two seasons ago, the Lions finished 5-15. Last year they made the round of 16 with a 17-7 record before bowing out. Two seniors will graduate, but the majority of the team will return as state runners-up.
"We lose some seniors, but we're going to come back with more fire than ever next year," Megan Engesser said.
"I'm just so proud of my team," Ingram said. "We haven't made it this far in a really long time. It's incredible."