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Justin McCaw sat on the floor following ThunderRidge's Class 5A semifinal loss to George Washington and absorbed a tough American basketball lesson.
It was one of those agony-of-defeat moments on March 10.
McCaw, a 6-foot-2 junior from Kapfenberg, Austria, lives with his uncle Terrel Respass and moved to the United States to learn, both on the basketball court and in the classroom.
"I really want to go to college," he said.
It took a little time for McCaw, who has dual citizenship because his father is an American citizen, to adjust to basketball in the United States after playing club ball in Kapfenberg.
"It was harder than expected," said McCaw, who speaks fluent English. "It was a big adjustment from the European style of basketball. That's why I didn't score a lot at the beginning of the season. I played on a great team that had my back. With these guys, after time, it was easy to adjust."
McCaw averaged 8.5 points and 3.2 rebounds a game but scored in double digits in 12 of the last 17 games.
"I'm way better than at the start of the season," McCaw said. "Actually, I don't think I'm better, just more confident. I could make the plays in Austria and make big 3s. Taking charges is the worst thing ever. That was the biggest adjustment. We really didn't have charges in Austria.
"I still haven't adjusted. I still go into the lane with my full body contact, full speed and guys take charges on me all the time."
McCaw will keep learning next season. Plus he plans to run track this spring and go out for football next fall.
Smiles tell the story
Valor Christian senior Kayle Knuckles didn't play competitive basketball until he was a freshman. He instead participated in football, baseball and lacrosse.
He proved to be a quick learner, earning Most Valuable Player honors in the Class 4A Final Four with 32 points and 12 rebounds in the Eagles' 68-55 championship game victory over Lewis-Palmer on March 11.
"I started playing basketball in eighth grade but freshman year was when I started playing competitive basketball," Knuckles said. "I never really liked basketball until I played it."
Valor Christian coach Troy Pachner enjoyed watching Knuckles develop his basketball skills.
"He's a natural athlete but he works at it and brings great joy to the sport," he said. "It's a game that is supposed to be fun and we sometimes overlook that. Kayle is a guy that you can't get a smile off his face."
Ethan Ward and Ren Scimzu, members of the Iron Eagle powerlifting club at Mountain Vista High school, won their age and weight classes at the USA Powerlifting State Championships on Feb. 11.
Ward is a two-time state champion in the T-1, 165-pound class. The T-1 class is for students 14 to 15 years old. He is ranked seventh nationally and will be competing for a national championship in May.
Scimzu captured the T-2, 165-pound class, which is for students 16 to 17 years old. He will also be lifting at the national championships.
State title eludes Faith Christian
Sometimes a smaller Class 3A team can be overlooked during the state basketball tournaments, with the 4A and 5A teams playing at the Denver Coliseum.
However, Faith Christian's incredible run to the 3A boys championship game should be noted.
The Eagles, seeded 13th, beat previously undefeated Resurrection Christian in the second round and edged top-seeded Kent Denver, 50-48, in the semifinals when Johan Garner scored the final six points to push the Arvada school into the finals against Sterling.
Faith Christian was seeking their seventh state title, but the extraordinary run ended. The Eagles were outscored 8-2 in the final two minutes and missed a last-second 3-point shot in a 48-47 loss to the Tigers in the title contest.
Jim Benton is a sports writer for Colorado Community Media. He has been covering sports in the Denver area since 1968. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 303-566-4083.
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