Yuma boys win third title in five years

Yuma High School’s boys basketball team went wire-to-wire in one of the more dominating seasons in YHS boys history.
The Indians ran the Sanford Indians out of the Budweiser Event Center, Saturday night in the Class 2A championship game.

They finished with a 25-1 record while earning the program’s third 2A title in five years. Overall, the Yuma boys basketball program has six state titles in its history. Plus, coach Dave Sheffield now has six state championships between Hi-Plains and Yuma.
The Indians began the season ranked No. 1 in 2A, and stayed there all season, and always were ranked No. 1 in the 2A Rating Percentage Index. They were the top seed in the postseason.
Yuma nearly matched the YHS 1980-81 team’s accomplishment of an undefeated state championship season. (The YHS girls also accomplished that in 2017-18.) This season’s Tribe’s only loss came in December, a 70-68 double-overtime setback to Eaton on a last-second 3-pointer.
Besides a couple of close calls with Holyoke, and a nine-point win over Wray, the Indians won all of their other games by double-digit margins.
The state championship culminated the YHS tenure for senior Clay Robinson, who enjoyed one of the most illustrious careers in YHS boys basketball history.
However, Robinson would be the first to tell you it was about much more than him, as this year’s team perhaps was the deepest in YHS history, with plenty of talent coming back and coming up as Yuma makes the transition back to Class 3A next season.
Yuma opened tourney play Thursday afternoon against eighth-seed Lotus School for Excellence out of Aurora.
It was the Meteors’ first state tournament game ever. They tried to throw off the Tribe with a rough-and-tumble style, featuring a lot of clutching and grabbing, and one incident between a Lotus player and Robinson, which resulted in a technical against Lotus.
None of the tactics made any difference as the Indians cruised to a 63-42 win in a game not even as close as the final score indicated.
“They tried to get under our skin, but we’re taught to keep our cool and just play basketball,” senior Javier Gamboa said after the game.
Yuma scored the game’s first 14 points, then went on a 9-0 run in the second for a 27-6 lead.
The Indians were ahead 31-10 at halftime, then erased any doubt with a 15-2 advantage in the third quarter for a 46-12 lead.
Lotus erupted for four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to cut into the margin. Plus, Yuma kept getting called for all sorts of fouls, despite Lotus being the team clutching and grabbing.
Still, in the end the Indians walked away with a comfortable quarterfinal win.
Yuma shot 49 percent from the floor, including 53.7 percent on 2-pointers (22-for-41), and made 10 of 15 free throws. The Indians dominated the boards with 43 rebounds, compared to 18 for Lotus.
Robinson led a balanced scoring attack with 12 points and six steals, while Beau Tate had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, along with three blocks. Gamboa had seven points and three rebounds, Daman Hernandez six points and two rebounds, Andrea Baucke five points and six rebounds, Jesus Ross five points and two rebounds, Forest Rutledge five points and seven rebounds, Jonathan Carrillo five points and three rebounds, Cristian Duarte four points, Jaxson Lungwitz two points, and Angel Escobar two points and two rebounds.
The win sent Yuma into the state semifinals for the fifth consecutive year. (The Indians’ 2020 semifinal was wiped out by COVID-19, and last year they lost at Wray in the truncated 2021 Season B.)

Denver Christian was waiting after pulling out an exciting double-overtime win over Wray in the quarterfinals. The Thunder’s student section had chanted “We Want Yuma!” at the end of that win, and the Thunder definitely played like it was up for the challenge, Friday night.
Denver Christian closed the first quarter on a 10-2 for a 15-6 lead.
The Indians struggled from outside throughout the game, but they battled back at the free-throw line, going on a 12-0 run for a 23-17 lead late in the second quarter.
However, Denver Christian was not about to go away. The Thunder led a 12-7 scoring advantage in the third to take a 35-32 lead, making the large contingent of Yuma faithful a bit nervous heading into the fourth.
However, Tate noted after the game that the Indians always trust each other and knew they just had to keep battling.
Gamboa started the fourth getting a steal and scoring, then scored again off a Ross assist after Ross got a steal. It led to a 10-1 run to start the quarter and a 40-36 lead.
Denver Christian battled back to within two points twice, but Yuma’s defense kept coming up big, and the Indians iced the game down the stretch with excellent free-throw shooting. They made 20 of 26 at the stripe, including Robinson going 12-for-12.
Yuma shot only 28 percent, but still won by double digits, 59-49.
The Yuma student section finally was able to get its revenge as the final seconds ticked away, chanting “We Want Yuma!” as the Yuma bench erupted in joy.
Denver Christian shot 53 percent, but Yuma’s defense got the job done with 14 steals, and held a 40-24 rebounding advantage which led to 22 more shots for the Indians.
Robinson finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds, along with seven steals, while Gamboa had 10 points and four rebounds, Tate eight points and seven rebounds, Ross seven points and four rebounds, Rutledge six points, seven rebounds and three steals, Escobar two points, Carrillo two points, and Lungwitz two rebounds.
Sanford had won its semifinal earlier in the evening, 44-40 over Limon. Fittingly, that set up a battle of Indians vs. Indians for the 2A title in the last tournament in which Colorado schools can have American Indian mascots.
Plus, both schools have a rich history recently in basketball. The Sanford boys won three straight titles earlier last decade, and the Sanford girls also played for a championship on Saturday.
The kind folks from Sanford, though, went home 0-2, as after the Holyoke girls beat the Indians 39-34 for that program’s first-ever state championship, the Yuma boys took the floor and delighted big crowd of fans with a 59-43 championship victory.
It was tight early, though, as Sanford led twice in the first quarter before Yuma took an 11-10 lead.
Yuma then went on an 11-2 to start the second, followed by another 6-0 spurt as they built a 30-18 lead by halftime. Tate scored the Tribe’s final six points of the quarter.
The Tribe opened the third with a 9-2 spurt, then scored the quarter’s final four points for a 43-22 lead entering the fourth.
Yuma pushed the margin to as much as 26 points, 57-31, as all that was left was the celebrating as the Yuma seniors took turns coming off the floor to big cheers and hugs.
Besides Clay Robinson, it was the final game for Javier Gamboa, Beau Tate, Jaxson Lungwitz, Kobe Rayl and Andre Baucke.
Yuma shot 46 percent compared to 35 percent for Sanford, and took 15 more shots thanks to 18 steals and a slight 30-25 rebounding advantage.
Robinson just missed finishing his career with a triple-double, posting 23 points, 10 rebounds and eight steals. Tate went out with a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, Rutledge had eight points and three steals, Ross five points and three rebounds, Gamboa three points and four steals, Lungwitz two points and two rebounds, Rayl two points and one steal, and Escobar two points. Cesar Varela and Jake Haruf also saw court time during the state tournament.