CARBONDALE (2/28/13) — After his top-seeded Roaring Fork Rams had survived a harrowing challenge from last-place Coal Ridge, 58-51, boys coach Larry Williams admitted, “It was nerve-wracking knowing our season would be over if we lost, even though we won the league. Maybe that affected us a little bit.”
The second quarter was typical: Roaring Fork came in with a slim 13-12 lead, which was promptly erased when 6-5 Andy Bowles got loose inside for a basket. The lead changed hands five more times and the score was tied twice before Tanner Nieslanik hurled in a 3-pointer with one-tenth of a second left and hit the free throw for a 4-point play and a 25-24 Ram lead at halftime.
The Rams also committed an uncharacteristic six turnovers in the quarter, but seemed to take control of the game with a 19-13 third period, led by 7 points each from Nieslanik and Trae Moxley that fueled a 44-37 lead. Another bucket by Moxley, who had 22 with 14 rebounds for the game, put Roaring Fork up by nine, but the Titans (4-16), led by Alec Herrera, came fighting back.
While the Rams were turning the ball over on three consecutive possessions, Herrera scored on a pair of drives to the hoop and fed Bowles for another basket, bringing Coal Ridge within three, 46-43 with 4 minutes left in the game. The Rams built the lead back to 8 with 1:50 to play on a pair of free throws by Moxley and baskets from Dakota Grett and Moxley, but still the Titans refused to go away quietly.
Ely Arreola, just 5-9 amid tall trees like the 6-5 Moxley, scored on an offensive put-back but missed the “and one” free throw. Moxley grabbed the rebound but threw the ball out of bounds trying for a fast break and Herrera’s subsequent drive trimmed the lead to 52-48 with 1:18 remaining.
From there, the senior Grett, who’d nailed six straight fourth-quarter free throws in the Western Slope title-clinching win at Moffat County a week ago, did it again, to close out the victory. “We want the ball in his hands to run out the clock, because he’s done it before,” Williams emphasized as the Rams (17-3, 15-1 WSL) prepare to face number 4 Basalt (7-12, 6-10), which defeated Grand Valley, 39-36, in the Semifinals of the District Tournament at Palisade High School Friday.
Herrera led the Titans with 20 points, followed by 14 from Bowles, who also had 8 rebounds, and 9 points from Richie Winkler. The Titans stayed in the game, despite getting to the free throw line just six times, by shooting 22-of-42 from the floor,
ROARING FORK GIRLS 53, COAL RIDGE 40
Megan Gianinetti scored 19 second-half points to lead Roaring Fork to a 53-40 quarterfinal district playoff win over Coal Ridge, but it wasn’t as easy as the final score sounds. The Titans led for most of the game, after recovering from an 11-2 Ram blitz to open the first quarter. Led by 7 points from Mariela Martinez off the bench, Coal Ridge scored the final 16 points to grab an 18-11 lead going into the second period.
The Rams rebounded with five straight to come within two, 18-16 but then committed 8 turnovers the rest of the way, scoring just 3 points. Paige Ryan made a couple of layups and Amanda Wenzel hit a 3-pointer on an in-bounds pass from Ryan to provide all the Titan scoring for a 25-19 halftime lead.
With Gianinetti pouring in 10 points, the Rams overcame a couple of three-pointers by Martinez and Wenzel to finally tie the score at 33 with 18 seconds left in the third period. The fourth quarter was all Rams as the Titans missed their first 13 shots while Gianinetti and sister Hattie combined for 15 points, making 5 of 6 field goals.
Megan led all scorers with 23 points along with 10 rebounds. Hattie also registered a double-double with 11 points and 11 boards. Maddie Nieslanik helped the Rams dominate on the glass, 41-25, grabbing 11 rebounds to go with 8 points. Ryan led the Titans with 15, but missed all 5 of her 3-point attempts; Martinez got into foul trouble and finished with 10 for the game. The Titans made just 8-of 45 shots after the first quarter.
The only downside for fourth-seeded Roaring Fork (12-8) as they prepare to face top-seeded Moffat County (17-3, 58-26 winners over Basalt), is a foot injury suffered by Shaeley Lough in the second quarter when she had to be helped off the floor and did not return to the game. The Rams beat Moffat County 51-41 at home and lost to the Bulldogs, 65-44 in Craig. The semi-final game will be played at Palisade High School at 3 p.m. on Friday.