St. Mary's captures its first state girls' basketball title, defeating Colorado Springs Christian School

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Photo - St. Mary's players cheer with the state champions trophy at the University of Denver - Hamilton Gym on Saturday, March 10, 2018. St. Mary's defeated Colorado Springs Christian School 44-38 to become the state 3A Girls' Basketball Champions.

(Nadav Soroker, The Gazette)

St. Mary's players cheer with the state champions trophy at the University of Denver - Hamilton Gym on Saturday, March 10, 2018. St. Mary's defeated Colorado Springs Christian School 44-38 to become the state 3A Girls' Basketball Champions. (Nadav Soroker, The Gazette)

DENVER – St. Mary’s sophomore Josephine Howery was cool and calm at the line in the final minute, draining four consecutive free throws. Senior Makenna Bodette was all in on a preservation swat.

The Pirates weren’t going to let their first state title in program history slip away Saturday.

Bodette scored 15 points, Howery added 14, and St. Mary’s held on to beat Colorado Springs Christian School 44-38 in Class 3A finals at the University of Denver’s Hamilton Gymnasium.

“I think the school has been around for something like 140 years and it’s cool that this is the first state title in hoops,” St. Mary’s coach Mike Burkett said. “This is a good group. They won it for their community and for their school.”

The Pirates’ standouts were clutch as they clung to a 40-38 lead in the last 51 seconds. Howery went 4 for 4 from the line and Bodette soared high to make a key block on 3A’s leading scorer, Megan Engesser.

“We’ve been in a lot of close games this season, so we knew we had to finish,” said Bodette, the team’s senior captain. “It’s unreal. I’m just really excited.”

As the clock expired, the team celebrated alongside their green-clad fans and jumped in joy all the way to the locker room. The two teams also gathered in a circle and shared in prayer.

“A lot of emotions were in that prayer circle,” Howery said. “In that circle we’re all common, we’re all in the same faith. It was really incredible we were able to do that.”

The Tri-Peaks rivals had met twice before the finals with both teams winning once. And just like the first two, the finale came right down to the wire.

The Pirates (26-1) closed the half on a 15-5 run to take a 21-14 lead. After five straight points from the Lions, Howery and Mary Cummings swished 3s in the final two minutes to help St. Mary’s close on a 7-0 spurt.

Behind Engesser, though, the Lions (23-4) roared back to take a 30-29 lead in the third before the Pirates outscored them 12-8 in the fourth.

Engesser, who was named one of the greatest girls players ever to play in the area, finished with a game-high 20 points to lead CSCS, which finished as the state runner-up for the second straight season. She had 10 points by the half and another nine in the third before hitting just once in the fourth.

The Lions outshot the Pirates, but they lost the battles on the boards and turnovers. St. Mary’s outrebounded CSCS 33-22 and scored 17 points off steals.

“There is just so many things that could go either way and either team could have won,” CSCS coach Mark Engesser said. “Just a few things here or there. … They went their way and they did a good job.”

The Pirates’ win was their first in hoops – both boys or girls, per the Colorado High School Activities Association.