Yuma boys had to battle for district title

Yuma High School boys basketball finally got back on top of Class 2A District 2.
The Indians are hosting a four-team regional in The Pit, Friday and Saturday, because they finally were able to win the district title again for the first time since February of 2019.

It came down to surviving another hairy game with the Holyoke Dragons, this time in overtime, and then holding off rival Wray in the championship game, last weekend at the NJC Bank of Colorado Events Center in Sterling.
It was Holyoke that upset the top-seed Tribe in the semifinals of the 2020 district tournament, sending Yuma to Clear Creek High School in the Evergreen area for regional. The Indians won that regional, won its state quarterfinal game, advancing to the semifinals for the third consecutive year, only to have state tournaments wiped out thanks to COVID-19.
Last year’s shortened season had all postseason games at the higher seed until the championship, and there was no district tournament. The Indians still advanced to the state semifinals, for the fourth straight season, but lost at rival Wray, which went on to win the program’s first-ever state title.
However, the Indians now are the District 2 champions for the third time in five seasons thanks to a pair of gutty and exciting efforts last weekend in Sterling.
The Indians had a first-round bye as the top seed, opening district play last Friday in the semifinals.
It took everything they had to pull out a 70-66 overtime victory against Holyoke.
The Indians blew out Holyoke, 75-50, in a non-league game right after the holiday break.
However, the Dragons just barely missed pulling off the big upset in the two meetings since. (Holyoke goes to third-seed Sanford for regional this weekend, so it will be interesting to see if the Dragons can advance out of that four-team bracket.)
Clay Robinson’s last-second bucket allowed the Tribe to escape the Dragons Lair with a 41-39 win on February 4 in the league game.
Certainly, that was going to be the only real shot for the Dragons to upset the top-ranked Tribe, right?
Well, it turns out they had an even better opportunity last Friday in the district semifinal.
Thank goodness for Beau Tate. The senior continually battled in the trenches, coming up with bucket after bucket to finish with a career-high 26 points. He made 10 of his 13 shots, and six of nine at the charity stripe. Many of his points came after offensive rebounds as he finished with 17 boards (11 on the offensive end) for an impressive double-double.
Friday’s semfinal started out it would not require any particular heroics to advance to the championship game. Tate scored four straight, and Javier Gamboa closed out the first quarter with a steal and a layup for 20-10 lead.
However, it turns out Holyoke was ready to battle, particularly with senior Ethan Johnson scoring 23 points, and sophomore Wyatt Sprague breaking out for 22 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Johnson had 11 assists.
Holyoke cut Yuma’s margin to six, 36-30, by halftime.
Then came a dominant third quarter. Holyoke went on a 15-0 run for a 47-39 lead. Tate’s “and-one” stopped the run, but the Dragons led 49-42 heading into the fourth. They pushed the lead to eight, 52-44, early in the fourth.
However, the Indians some fight in them also. Tate kept pounding away inside, Clay Robinson made a pair of free throws, and Jesus Ross hit from downtown to keep them close. The fouls started piling up as Gamboa fouled out, and Holyoke’s Sprague soon went to the bench with 28 seconds trying to go over Tate’s back for a missed free throw.
Tate made both at the stripe to tie the game at 61, and the game went to overtime when neither team could capitalize in the final seconds.
Yuma led 67-66 when Holyoke was called for an intentional foul on an inbound pass with six seconds left. Ross made one free throw, then was fouled again on the next inbounds. Ross made both this time at the line for a 70-66 lead, and the Indians held on from there.
“Our (last) two games against Holyoke have been challenges,” head coach Dave Sheffield said. “They were able to exploit some of the gaps in our defense, which allowed for some runs in the game. Their zone was very active and contested a lot of what we were doing. I thought our guys did a great job weathering the adversity of the game, and never stopped.”
Holyoke shot 55 percent compared to Yuma’s 44 percent. Both teams made six 3-pointers. Yuma made just 14 of 25 at the charity stripe (56 percent), but it was four more makes than Holyoke (10-for-17).
Besides Tate’s big game, Robinson had 12 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists, Ross 11 points and three rebounds, Gamboa 11 points and three steals, Forest Rutledge eight points and two assists, Jaxson Lungwitz two points, and Jonathan Carrillo three assists.
Wray’s semifinal game against Sedgwick County did not begin until well after 9:30 p.m., thanks the Burlington-Wiggins girls game went two overtimes following the Yuma-Holyoke OT thriller.
However, the Eagles were rested and ready to go when they took the floor against Yuma, in Saturday night’ district championship game.
The Eagles have stuck close against Yuma, losing by 10 and nine points during the regular season, and lost by just 12, 53-41, last Saturday night, but never have been able to seriously threaten the Indians.
It was the same Saturday night.
Yuma built a 15-10 lead in the first quarter, pushed it to 30-21 by halftime, and stretched its advantage to 45-29 after three quarters. The Indians then held on from there for the District 2 title.
“After a demanding game on Friday, we bounced back quickly for the Wray game,” Sheffield said. “Our pressure created a good pace for us, and allowed us to go on runs. We had various guys step into large roles in this game, which led to a consistent double-figure lead through the second half.”
Yuma made nine 3-pointers compared to three for Wray, and had 23 points off turnovers, though Wray was almost as good with 18 points off turnovers. Yuma, though, had 14 steals to just four for Wray, and held a 30-21 rebounding advantage.
Robinson hit five shots from downtown on his way to 25 points, five rebounds, five assists and six steals. Rutledge hit three from deep to finish with 14 points and six rebounds, Ross had five points and two assists, Gamboa five points and three steals, Tate two points and eight rebounds, and Kobe Rayl two points and two rebounds.