CONIFER (2/22/17) — “Chano was on fire at our shoot-around at Mines earlier today, and I thought he just might light it up tonight, and he did!” Glenwood Springs coach Cory Hitchcock said after Gonzalez and the Demon boys held off a late comeback at Conifer Wednesday to defeat the Lobos 56-45 in the first round of the state playoffs. The 5-10 sophomore, whose playing time has been increasing recently despite a stretch of four straight games where he had just two points in each, poured in a career-high 15, including seven in a high-scoring fourth quarter that enabled Glenwood to advance to a second-round trip to number seven Pueblo West this Saturday.
Aaron Smith, who also scored 15, helped Glenwood to a quick start, nailing a 3-pointer following the opening tip, in a 10-2 start, and six other Demons added points that turned into a 16-9 quarter lead. The multi-scoring trend continued for Glenwood with Smith and Gonzalez adding treys for another 16-point quarter and a 32-21 halftime lead.
Conifer made just 8-of-21 shots, including 2-of-10 three-pointers, while Glenwood was shooting 13-of-18 from the floor in the first half. But neither team could find the hoop in a 4-4 third period, setting up a furious final frame.
The Lobos made a pair of “and-one” three-point plays and dropped in a pair of treys on a 15-4 run to get within 40-36, but Luke Gair’s basket pushed the lead back to six, and when Gonzalez hit the floor hard after scoring with 3:35 left, Angel Garcia completed the 3-point play for a 45-36 lead.
“Defense won this basketball game,” Hitchcock said afterwards upon learning Conifer made just 15 of 45 shots, 4 of 25 from beyond the arc. The Demons couldn’t match their hot-shooting first half, but did make 4-of-6 in the 20-20 final quarter along with 12-of-20 from the line with Smith making 6-of-8 free throws.
Nic Isgrig provided scoring and rebounding off the bench with 5 first-half points and 4 boards, and AJ Crowley scored 9 with 7 assists for the Demons, 14-10, who were ranked number 39 in the 48-team 4A playoff bracket despite being co-Western Slope League champs with Steamboat Springs, ranked 31st. Third-place Eagle Valley, was seeded 27th, but lost at home to 28th seeded Wheat Ridge (10-14), 58-56.
Glenwood was the only WSL team to advance on George Washington’s birthday, as Steamboat (12-12) lost at home to number 34 Windsor (12-12), 51-47, Rifle (10-14) was defeated at number 19 Thompson Valley (15-9), 51-37, and Battle Mountain (8-15) lost 48-33 at number 20 Skyview.