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Sophomore Brihanna Crittendon takes over late, propels Riverdale to Class 4A girls title: “She’s generational”

Brihanna Crittendon sensed the moment.

A rare skill, perhaps, for a high school sophomore, but her coach has seen it time and again. Teammates, too.

So when Riverdale Ridge found itself in a tight spot late in the third quarter of Saturday’s Class 4A girls basketball state championship game, none of them were surprised when she took over.

It’s what she does.

Crittendon scored 11 of her game-best 22 in the final 9:46 of Riverdale’s 50-43 title-clinching win over top seed Holy Family, controlled the deciding quarter of the game and finished off yet another dominant performance with a blocked shot, propelling the Ravens to a championship.

The defending champions surged. Crittendon shut it down.

“That kid is built for moments like this,” Ravens coach Tim Jones said as Cittendon celebrated with her teammates, complete with a WWE-style wrestling belt and medal given by the Sportswomen of Colorado as the game’s most outstanding player. “I keep telling people: She’s generational. Her mentality is ‘whatever it takes.’ She doesn’t get rattled. … She’s very unique in that sense.”

Holy Family’s Enyiah Contreaz (seven points) knocked down consecutive 3-pointers late in the third quarter to knot the game at 30 before Crittendon took matters into her own hands with a silky smooth spin into the lane and finish. Then fellow Division I recruit Brooklyn Charlo drained a 3 of her own — her first points since the first quarter — and Crittendon finished a late layup for seven points in the final 1:46 of the third quarter and a 37-31 lead.

“It changes the mentality for everybody, right? You’re down the stretch, you’re battling back and forth,” Jones said. “Then your dog just says, alright, let’s put this to rest. Let’s go to work.”

Said Crittendon: “I knew if we just stayed together, our team stayed together, that’s all I was focused on. Make sure the team stays together, make sure we play together, and just take over.

“Just take over and make sure we get that state championship. Send it home.”

Crittendon, Charlo (11 points) and Cimonie Martinez (10) scored all but seven of Riverdale Ridge’s points on the night. Holy Family got 11 points from Gracie Ward and points from eight players while flashing relentless pressure and defense, but it wasn’t enough to slow Crittendon and company.

The Ravens hit a decision point late in the first quarter when Crittendon picked up her second foul on a charging call under the hoop with 55.6 seconds left, but she stayed in the game and navigated through the rest of the first half unscathed.

Savvy stuff for such a young player.

“It’s almost unfathomable,” Jones said of Crittendon’s future. “The way she is, the way she makes people around her better, the sky is the limit. When I say she’s generational, some of these (fans) aren’t basketball people. But they show up because they want to see Brihanna Crittendon and want to see if she is who everyone says she is. …

“To us she’s a 15- or 16-year-old kid who just loves the game. She just loves it.”

Crittendon said she just wanted to try to help her team go somewhere it hadn’t been before.

“It’s amazing. It really is,” Crittendon said. “Everyone’s been working so hard. Just to send our seniors out on a high note, I’m so excited. I’m so proud of my whole team. We’ve been working so hard for this.”

Indeed, this group is the one Jones started with.

“We’ve been grinding. It’s been a long four years,” he said. “… It’s phenomenal. This is my first group of seniors that were freshmen with me. It was the foundation. I’m speechless. I don’t know what to say.”

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