CARBONDALE (3/4/11) — Overtime paid off again for the Roaring Fork boys basketball team, as they advanced to the Sweet 16 round of the 3A state tournament, edging Bennett, 65-61 in their first-round sub-regional Friday.
Coming down the stretch in the Western Slope League, the Rams, who have now won seven straight, including the district championship last weekend, went into overtime three times. The first one was a 56-53 loss at Aspen, but then the Rams began to get the hang of OT in back-to-back games, winning at Coal Ridge, then going to two extra periods to defeat Rifle.
So when a pair of desperate three-pointers helped erase a seven-point Roaring Fork lead in the game's last two minutes, the Rams just put on their hard-hats and went to work. Six different players scored in the OT, including 5-of-8 at the free throw line. The decisive points came when Dalton Handy fed Jake Stack Loertscher for a 59-58 lead, and a minute later Dakotah Grett grabbed a rebound and went the length of the court to regain the one-point advantage, 61-60 with 1:48 left in the four-minute extra period. The Rams would not trail again as Clay Gross and Handy hit two of four from the stripe, and Trent Reeds, whose rebounding in the fourth quarter helped get his team to the overtime, clinched the outcome, pushing the lead to four with a pair of free throws with 4 ticks left on the clock.
The Rams trailed the 26-seeded Tigers (14-10 and 4th in the Frontier League) by as much as five in the second quarter as Mick Schumacher drained a pair of treys, but Trae Moxley, recovered from the ankle injury that kept him out of the district title game, led the Rams back with three straight baskets for a 32-31 halftime lead. Schumacher connected from downtown again in the 3rd for a 37-34 Tiger lead and Bennett still led 42-40 heading into the fourth period.
Stack Loertcher scored six points in the first two minues of the quarter to regain the lead, and Sam Carpenter's four free throws seemed to lock up the game as the Rams led 52-45 with 1:48 to go. Schumacher made an improbable, hastily-hurled 3-pointer, and then Alejandro Ibarra hit his only trey of the game from the left corner, after a near-steal by Handy, to give Bennett a 54-53 lead inside 30 seconds.
A fourth Ram turnover in their last five possessions seemed to spell doom for the home team when Ibarra made two free throws, but Grett stole the ball after Handy missed a wide-open three, and the sophomore calmly sank a pair from the line with 13 seconds left to bring Roaring Fork within one, 56-55. Bennett opened the door by missing the front of a one-and-one, but Carpenter, who had made 7 of his last 8 free throws, missed the first of a double-bonus with 9 seconds remaining. With the visiting fans screaming and home crowd silently pleading, Carpenter made the second to tie the score, and Schumacher missed a good look at a three just before the buzzer.
Strack Laetcher led the Rams with 20 points, with Moxley adding 13, and Carpenter 10. The 7th seeded Rams (16-7) will meet 10th seed Weld Central (19-4, 2nd to Valley in the Patriot League), led by JJ Sirios and Cody Bowen (who combined for 41 points as the Rebels thrashed Clear Creek, Friday, 64-33) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Roaring Fork High School. The winner will advance to the Great 8 at CSU, Thursday, March 10.
Coal Ridge (13-10), in the same region as Roaring Fork, was beaten 64-32 by Jefferson Academy (15-7), which will meet Colorado Springs Christian (23-0) Saturday to see who will play the Ram-Rebel winner at CSU. Aspen (15-8) edged the Colorado Academy, 32-28 and will play Valley (19-4) Saturday.
RIFLE GIRLS 68, BASALT 22
RIFLE — It was business as usual for the Rifle Lady Bears as they raced past Basalt for the third time this season, 68-22 in their first-round sub-regional game Friday. Cortney Cordova, who injured her shooting wrist in the District semifinal game, showed no ill effects as she hit a jumper to start the game, and her 3-pointer four minutes in gave the Bears an 11-2 lead. Rifle (23-0), seeded second to Holy Family in the 32-team 3A girls brackett, never looked back, extending the lead to 19-4 by quarter's end and 38-8 at halftime.
Cordova, who with the rest of the Rifle starters, sat out the fourth quarter, finished with 23 points, 6 assists and connected on 3-of-5 three-pointers to clearly demonstrate her shooting touch was back to normal. Racheal Keithley added 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 steals, with Ashley Rickstrew coming off the bench for 11 points. Coach Stephanie Heald said before the game that her goal for the team was to play hard, and by holding the 31st-seeded Longhorns (8-14) to single-digit scoring in each quarter, the Bears executed those orders on defense, forcing 29 turnovers.