GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. (BVM) — On the same night Cherry Creek High School advanced to the girls basketball state title game, the season also came to an abrupt end for star senior guard Jana Van Gytenbeek and the defending Class 5A state champs.
“I was just really sad — we all were really sad,” said Van Gytenbeek, the Gatorade Player of the Year for Colorado. “In a way, we kind of could see it coming. Everything was getting canceled so it wasn’t too much of a shock, but it was pretty heartbreaking.”
By the evening of March 12, the NBA had postponed its season and the NCAA Tournament was canceled because of the COVID-19 outbreak, but Cherry Creek went on to beat Highland Ranch in the state semifinals to set up a championship game rematch with Grandview, which was scheduled for the following night.
By the time the Bruins had all returned home from their semifinal victory, the title game was called off. It was a tough pill to swallow for Van Gytenbeek and her teammates even though they understood the decision.
“The whole season we were preparing to defend our title and we went through a lot together,” Van Gytenbeek said. “To have it right at our fingertips and have it taken away was really hard.”
Despite the way her senior season ended, the Stanford-bound guard has a lot to look forward to in her basketball career and plenty of accomplishments to look back on and be proud of. Van Gytenbeek finished as Cherry Creek’s all-time leading scorer (1,731 points) and Colorado’s all- time assists leader (679). And it was her game-winning shot in the final seconds of last year’s state final against Grandview that gave the Bruins their first state championship in program history.
For head coach Clint Evans, she’s a player who seems impossible to replace.
“She’s almost a perfect kid to coach,” Evans said. “When your best player is your hardest worker then it becomes really easy. She gets a lot of accolades for scoring and obviously the all-time assist record in Colorado, but she’s also an amazing defender. I could put her on a lot of players and she can shut them down.”
Evans also speaks highly of Van Gytenbeek’s character and her work ethic both on and off the court.
“She’s just kind of one of those people who changes a room and she makes everybody around her better,” Evans said. “She really approaches the classroom like she approaches games. She goes in and works and works so that whether it’s her tests or basketball, she can put the best thing out there.”
Van Gytenbeek graduated with a 4.0 GPA over all four years and plans to major in marine biology or environmental studies while playing basketball for Stanford, a program she’s long been excited about becoming a part of.
“It was always my dream school since sixth grade when I went out there for my first camp,” said Van Gytenbeek, who verbally committed to the Cardinal as a sophomore. “When they offered it was a yes for me right away.”
While Van Gytenbeek looks forward to what the future holds at Stanford, she’s also finding a positive way to remember how her final season ended.
“I have to put it behind me and be thankful for everything that we did this season,” Van Gytenbeek said, “and then also use it as a lesson that every time I step on the court could be my last game and so just leave it all out there.”