PALISADE HIGH SCHOOL (3/2/13) – Trae Moxley said coach Larry Williams’ instructions were simple for Roaring Fork’s 59-54 Western Slope 3A District championship win over Moffat County: “Get boards, boards, boards, and make sure they didn’t get second shots.”
Moxley and his Ram teammates executed the plan well, dominating the glass, 41-25, with the 6-5 senior headed to CSU to play football in the fall grabbing 17 of those rebounds. By winning the district tournament, played at Palisade High School, Roaring Fork (19-3) will host a 4-team regional next weekend.
Moffat County (18-4), which lost a pair of 3-point games to the Rams in the regular season, never led after exchanging the second-quarter lead four times, but did rally from nine points down with a minute left in the third to get within two points four times in the final eight minutes. Each time, a different Roaring Fork player helped meet the challenge.
When sophomore sensation Tyler Davis drained a third to cut the Rams’ 45-40 lead to two on the first possession in the fourth quarter, it was Jack Fisher putting back a blocked shot for a 4-point cushion. A spectacular hustle play featuring Moxley tipping a rebound out to Israel Leyva, and the senior point guard passing the ball back inside for a 3-point play increased the lead to seven with 4:45 to play.
Two minutes later Joe Camilletti’s steal and layup whittled the margin back to two, setting the stage for Dakotah Grett’s usual fourth-quarter free throw line heroics. Grett, who knocked down 6 straight free throws to ice Thursday’s regional qualifying win over Coal Ridge, two weeks after doing the same at Moffat County, wasn’t quite as accurate Saturday, but did make 3-of-4 in the final 90 seconds.
But Davis hit his fourth trey in six tries to slice the lead to 56-54 before Leyva, who made 3-of-6 free throws down the stretch, nudged the lead back to three with 19 seconds remaining. The game’s most controversial play followed: Davis put up another three that bounced high off the rim and dropped in causing a celebratory roar from Bulldog supporters, but the shot was ruled to have caromed off the top of the backboard and was waved off by the referees.
Forced to foul and hope for missed free throws, the Bulldogs’ slim hopes were doused when Grett made two for the final margin. “I have confidence knocking down free throws,” said Grett, who scored 11 points, supporting Moxley’s team-high 16. Tanner Nieslanik had 10 and Fisher added 8 points and 4 boards off the bench. Davis led the Bulldogs with 17, and Camilletti scored 12.
ASPEN BOYS 51, BASALT 32
Aspen outscored a determined Basalt squad, 14-3 in the fourth quarter to finally put the Longhorns away, 51-32. The Skiers held a slim 14-13 lead after one period, which they increased to 23-17 at half. Ahead just 28-24 midway through the third quarter, Trent Lichtenwalter scored six straight with a trey on an in-bounds pass, then another three points via a put-back and free throw. Josh Baker’s triple provided an 8-point lead, 37-29, going into the fourth.
Spotty free-throw shooting gradually increased that margin to 14 with four minutes left, and the Skiers (18-4) closed out the Longhorns (7-14) by scoring the game’s final seven points. Lichtenwalter led Aspen with 22 points and 7 rebounds, with Taylor Henschke scoring 8 off the bench. Sean Ryan made five 3-pointers in 12 tries to lead Basalt with 15 points. Spencer Glasener added 10 points and 6 rebounds.
The Skiers await Sunday’s 3A regional pairings to find out where they’ll be playing next weekend.
In other district action, the Roaring Fork girls (13-9) came back from 13 points down to upset Grand Valley (15-7) in the third place game. Moffat County (19-3), playing its first season at the 3A level after dropping down from 4A, edged Olathe (17-5), 46-41 for the district championship.