Fri Jul 16th, 2021
Special to the Drum
Tags: 2020 CHSAA Class 2A State Championships, 2A Greeley Dayspring Christian's Christian Still, Aaron Hedman, Aaron Thieman, All-State, All-State Debut, Amondo Miller Jr, Ault Highlands, Bobcats Boys Basketball, Bryce Finn, Cade Palmer, CHSAA, Coach Chris Valdez, Colorado High School Coaches Association All-State Games, DeAngelo Horn, Dirk Pedersen, Elam Format, Elam Rules, Great Eight, Hot-Shooting Crew, Jase Bessire, Kole Armstrong, Massari Arena, Nolan Hill, Senior, Third-Place, Tourney, Tyce Baldwin
Graduated senior books 8 points in tourney
Unfamiliar to most gathered inside Massari Arena, fans and players alike, Elam rules were employed to ultimately decide each basketball contest played at the 2021 Colorado High School Coaches Association All-State Games.
Simply put, in Elam format, after the first whistle following the fourth quarter’s midway mark, the game clock is turned off and a ‘target’ of eight points above the leaders’ score (at the time of stoppage) is set, with the first side reaching that total declared victorious. Certainly favoring a hot-shooting crew, or one already owning a large advantage, the format really didn’t affect the outcome of the Games’ third-place contest, in which ASG-White – with Ignacio’s Bryce Finn in uniform – held a 63-43 upper hand on ASG-Black when the Elam objective of 71 was announced.
“It kind of felt more like a scrimmage game, to be honest,” Finn said, of the odd means of concluding play. “Felt like pick-up games at the rec center or something.”
Admittedly unable to find the range on his own, normally reliable jumper, Finn had little to worry about when it came to capping his prep career with a win. 1A Merino’s Kole Armstrong quickly cashed a three-pointer and a shorter two, and Ault Highland’s Jase Bessire – the younger half of the Huskies’ sibling (Tate being the older) duo which helped doom IHS in the 2020 CHSAA Class 2A State Championships’ ‘Great Eight’ phase immediately before emerging COVID-19 concerns canceled that tournament – buried a three to secure a 71-47 triumph Friday morning, July 2.
“Playing with Jase … Him and his brother, they’re so fast,” said Finn, who booked six points. “On-ball defense, he was like lock-down – hustled to try to get a steal on every play – and it was fun playing with him.”
“It was a lot of fun, playing with guys you’ve never played with before,” he continued. “Everybody’s, like, on the same skill level – it makes a big difference compared to … . Like, in small schools you may only have three, four guys really scoring and … this game everybody can put up 20 points if they wanted. So it was a lot of fun playing with people that are really skilled.”
White steadily constructed leads of 15-14 after the first eight-minute quarter and 37-28 going into halftime, while 2A Greeley Dayspring Christian’s Christian Still tried keeping Black even remotely close with four three-pointers. Five Armstrong points helped White win the third quarter 13-11 and enter the home stretch ahead 50-39, with 3A Manitou Springs’ Isaiah Thomas then, for all practical purposes, putting White in control for keeps with seven of his 14 total points.
Armstrong would finish with 17 points and Bessire 11; Still, meanwhile, was silent after intermission but still ended up with a Black-leading 12, while 3A Parker Lutheran’s Sam Hoops contributed ten.
When Finn made his All-State debut the previous evening, however, White definitely wasn’t in second-day form. Three consecutive showpiece-style dunks by 4A Elizabeth’s Tristan Smith – including a two-handed flush of an alley-oop lob from 2A Limon’s Camden Smithburg – had ASG-Red on a game-opening 17-0 run when Finn finally entered the fray.
Red’s romp would hit 19-0 before 1A Peetz’s Nolan Hill canned a three with just 1:17 left in the first frame, and White would go into the second trailing 21-6. Finn’s first – and only, as things played out – basket, however, punctuated a key 7-0 burst early, and with Armstrong suddenly drilling four triples, White rallied back to 35-31 at halftime.
“Playing summer ball with Coach Chris (Valdez) and stuff, it’s really similar to what this was,” explained Finn. “We don’t really run too many plays or anything in the summertime – it’s just kind of run-and-gun ball, not really super focused on ‘We need to do this and this.’”
“And yeah, I couldn’t find a jump shot so I was just trying to get to the rim, get something on the board!”
Taking pressure off Smith, 5A Highlands Ranch Rock Canyon’s DeAngelo Horn and 5A Fort Collins Fossil Ridge’s Tyce Baldwin combined for 11 third-quarter points, helping rebuild Red’s crumbling lead back up to 55-48 entering the fourth.
Finishing the semifinal the way he’d start the third-place feature, 5A Aurora Rangeview’s Cade Palmer nailed a three and logged for White – coached by RHS’ Shawn Palmer and 1A Elbert’s Aaron Thieman – seven of his 11 total points (he’d total seven against Black), but with Smith (20 total points) and Baldwin (16) combining for 13, Red prevailed 73-64 with the Elam target having been set with Red up 65-57.
Smithburg registered 15 points and Horn 11 for the victors; Armstrong’s 16 points – all in the first half – paced White in defeat, with both Bessire and 5A Highlands Ranch Valor Christian’s Amondo Miller, Jr., nearly reaching double figures with nine points apiece.
Coached by Limon’s Dirk Pedersen and Elizabeth’s Aaron Hedman, ASG-Red would leave CSU-Pueblo’s campus the Games’ champs; a one-handed Horn breakaway dunk emphatically polished off a tense 77-74 win – an Elam goal of 76 had been set with Red leading 68-65 – over Blue, which got a game-best 25 points from 3A Gunnison’s Braden Wood, while Baldwin (21), Smithburg (17), Horn (15) and Smith (11) formed a powerful conquering quartet.
Blue had defeated Black 77-62 in the second semi on Day 1, with the relentless Wood racking up 24 points.