CARBONDALE (1/23/18) – Every once in a while, something actually lives up to expectations, as with the showdown between the Roaring Fork Rams and Coal Ridge Titans Tuesday. The two teams had lost just three games combined in twenty played this season, and the Ram boys were on a nine-game winning streak – which ended when the Titans barely survived a desperately-contested fourth quarter to win, 68-64.
The opposite end of the spectrum played out in the girls contest, as the Lady Rams edged Coal Ridge, 47-43, in a battle to see which team would win its first league game.
COAL RIDGE BOYS 68, ROARING FORK 64
The first half of the boys highly anticipated game was hard-fought, as the Titans’ 34-31 halftime lead evidenced. Then Coal Ridge put their inside-outside game together with tenacious defense, and some bad fortune injury-wise for the Rams, to blow the game open with a 20-10 third quarter.
Leading by thirteen with Roaring Fork’s scoring leader unable to keep playing after trying to hobble through an injury suffered in the first half, the Titans seemed to have a lock on the game as the fourth quarter began. But senior Justin Thompson started to revive his team’s chances with an and-one drive to the hoop, followed by a 3-pointer, forcing a Titan time out and cutting the lead to 57-49 with 5:35 to play.
Brandon Herrera pushed the Titan advantage back to ten with a spectacular weaving layup, but Ronald Clemente converted two free throws, and Oscar Miranda made a 3-point shot, cutting the lead in half, 59-54, halfway through the period.
An unsung hero emerged for the Titans, following two missed free throws, when 5-10 Brody Morgan slipped around a Ram defender who had inside position and put back the second miss, advancing the Coal Ridge margin to seven with 3:36 to go.
Moments later, Jesus Camunez, who was averaging 2.4 points a game this season, drilled his third trey of the contest after a jump pass from Herrera found him alone on the baseline. That shot actually clinched the outcome for the Titans, putting them ahead 65-56, with 1:56 to play – but the Rams’ Thompson tried to forestall the inevitable with a steal and one-handed dunk, a pair of free throws and a drive to the bucket that had the home stands roaring and the nine point lead down to four with 18 seconds left.
The comeback died when the Ram senior missed the ‘and-one’ despite a Titan turnover with 16 seconds remaining. A desperate heave by Miranda fell short, ending the Roaring Fork win streak that dated back to December 2nd of last year.
The Titans’ twin towers, 6-7 Kevin DiMarco and 6-8 Connor Detlefsen helped the visitors to an early lead, scoring 11 of their team’s 14 first-quarter points. However, a balanced attack by the Rams resulted in a 17-14 lead, which would have been larger had not Herrera splashed home a triple seconds before the period ended.
Joe Salinas, who would later gallantly try to play through an injury, dropped in a deep three to extend the Ram lead to 20-14, but the Titans rallied on a DiMarco putback and a trey by Herrera, giving the Titans a lead they would never relinquish, 23-21 with 5:10 left in the half.
Camunez’ 3-pointer extended the margin to five, but Irving Anchondo matched it on the Rams’ next possession and a pair of free throws by Clemente and Salinas’ 3-pointer, hobbling on one foot, drew Roaring Fork with one with 56 seconds to go in the half. DiMarco, who used perfect entry passes from Herrera and Jan Hernandez to seemingly score at will inside, did so again just before intermission for the Titans’ 34-31 lead.
DiMarco scored the first six points for the Titans as they built a seven-point lead early in the third, then treys by Camunez, Payton White, and Herrera seemed to seal the Rams’ defeat, giving Coal Ridge a 54-41 lead going to the final frame.
Thompson’s heroic 12-point fourth quarter propelled him to a game-high 25 points, and he added 12 rebounds and 4 steals in a virtuoso performance. Salinas had 11 points and 12 rebounds before leaving the game for good in the third quarter.
DiMarco paced the Titans with 19 points, with Herrera adding 14 points and 9 assists, hitting 3-of-5 three-pointers. Camunez also sank 3-of-5 from downtown, as the Titans shone from beyond the arc, making 8-of-16. Detlefson and Camunez each tallied 11 points off the bench.
Because there are ten teams in the 3A Western Slope League, the Titans (9-2, 2-0) and Rams (9-2, 2-1) will not meet again in the regular season, giving Coal Ridge the head-to-head advantage, should they wind up tied going into the district tournament.
ROARING FORK GIRLS 47, COAL RIDGE 43
The Lady Rams, behind a strong first-half by Emily Broadhurst with support from Caroline Wisroth and Kendall Bernot, grabbed a 15-8 first-quarter lead aand fought through a long dry-spell in the second quarter to go up by ten, 24-14 with 2:22 left in the half on Gabriela Santana’s 3-point play.
The Titans closed the gap to 24-17 by haltime, then scored seven straight to open the third. Taylor Wiescamp’s put back, a steal and layup by Alyssa Wenzel, and 3-point play by Santana Martinez tied the game with 6:12 to go.
Logan Erickson, who would emerge as Roaring Fork’s fourth-quarter heroine, splashed home the Rams’ only 3-pointer of the game to regain the lead, but the Titans put together a 5-0 closing run, taking their only lead since the game’s first basket, 33-32 going into the last period.
Erickson, who had just two points in the first half, drove to the basket to put the Rams back in front for good. Coal Ridge, which suffered through a 5-for-31 shooting performance in the first half, suddenly went cold again, missing its first 11 shots in the fourth quarter, while Roaring Fork was making 11-of-13 from the line, led by four straight from Broadhurst, who wound up with 12 points before fouling out with 4 minutes to go.
The Titans, who missed 7 of 13 from the line in the final frame, still were within five when Martinez was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 14 seconds left. If the Titan senior could make even 2-of-3, it would be a one-possession game, but she missed the first two, and a last-second basket was offset by two more free throws from Erickson, who had eight points in the quarter.
Erickson, a junior, led all scorers with 13, and grabbed 8 rebounds despite being one of the shorter players on the court. Broadhurst pulled down 9 boards to help the Rams (7-4, 1-2 WSL) win the battle under the glass, 33-30. Because Roaring Fork committed 30 turnovers, Coal Ridge (5-7, 0-2) put up almost twice as many shots, 59-30, but made only 12. Wiescamp, who had 11 rebounds, led the Titan scoring along with Martinez and Adriana Varges, with nine points each.