PEACH VALLEY (3/3/18) – The home court advantage wasn’t enough as the Coal Ridge Titans, ranked third in the 3A state basketball playoffs, having won twelve straight and gone undefeated through the Western Slope League season, lost the regional championship game to No. 14 Denver Manual, 80-77.
After a closely contested opening quarter, the Thunderolts, behind three 3-pointers by Jadeon Bowles, who scored 22 pts in the first half and 39 for the game, opened up a 14-point lead midway through the second period. A deep 3-pointer by Jan Hernandez just as the half ended drew the Titans within nine, 43-34, a preview of late-game heroics to come.
The third quarter was a 20-20 shootout, with Coal Ridge unable to make any headway, and the teams continued to trade baskets through the early minutes of the fourth period. The Titans made their first four shots of the quarter, but Manual went 5-for-6 to lead 73-63 with 5:20 to go.
Then the Titans ran off seven straight points, starting with Brandon Herrera’s jumper and including another Hernandez trey, cutting the T-Bolt advantage to three after Kevin DiMarco made one of two free throws, 73-70, with 2:32 remaining. Free throws would prove to be the undoing of the home team, which went 3-for-10 in the second and third quarters and 4-of-8 in the fourth, but a put-back by Connor Detlefson and one more long-distance bomb from Hernandez gave Coal Ridge a 76-75 lead with 1:22 to go.
It wasn’t the missed free throws (the Titans wound up missing 12 of 22 for the game) that haunted coach Paul Harvey after that lead slipped away and ended the Coal Ridge season. “We couldn’t get that last rebound, and it turns into an ‘and one,’” Harvey lamented referring to Dontre Thompson’s missed baseline layup, only to see Bowles snatch the ball on the weak side and put it back in for a one-point Manual lead. Hernandez fouled out on the play, and “That hurt us,” Harvey said. “We’ve got to find a way to keep him in the game.”
Bowles, who tallied 18 points in the second half when he wasn’t dishing to Thompson for another 14, dropped in the free throw for a 78-76 lead with 1:06 to play. Three missed 3-pointers and another 1-for-2 free throw trip (three in the final quarter, seven for the game, in addition to a pair of missed 1-and-1 tries) left the roaring home crowd deflated, yet proud of the comeback effort by the Titans, who finished 21-3.
“We ran into another great team,” Harvey said afterwards, thinking of last year’s final playoff loss, also at home, 61-59 in overtime to eventual state champion Sterling.
Senior Herrera, who topped 1,000 points in his Titan career, led the Titan scoring with 21, including 3-of-8 treys, and added 6 assists. Junior DiMarco scored 16 with a dozen rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 blocks. Junior Payton White tallied 14 with 7 rebounds and senior Detlefson posted 11 points and 8 rebounds. Hernandez, a junior had 9 points on 3-of-4 shots beyond the arc.
Bowles, a 6-6 junior, finished with 39 of Manual’s 80 points, dished out 7 assists and pulled down 16 rebounds, six of which he converted into scores. Thompson scored 16, most on easy baseline layups when the Titan defense tried to stop Bowles’ penetration.
Acknowledging the significance of seven graduating seniors, including Herrera, Jake Whitaker, Brody Morgan, Juan Vasquez, Detlefson, Daniel Lopez, and Dylan Allen, Harvey was already looking forward to next season and the return of key players such as Hernandez, Jesus Camunez, Payton White, DiMarco “and we’ll get Aaron Arreloa back,” who missed most of this year with an ACL injury, “and another Gerber (Austin) and DiMarco (Hank).”
Manual (16-8) will meet Faith Christian (18-6), which defeated Kent Denver, 65-33, in the Great Eight at Denver University next Thursday. Two other Western Slope teams were eliminated in the Sweet Sixteen, as Delta (16-8) lost 62-22 to No. 1-ranked Sterling (24-0), and Grand Valley (18-6) was defeated by No. 2 Alamosa (20-3), 57-39.
MESA RIDGE 67, GLENWOOD SPRINGS BOYS 48
“We didn’t want to get into a track meet with them,” but that’s what happened, Glenwood Springs (19-5) coach Cory Hitchcock said after his team exited the 4A boys state tournament, 67-48 to Mesa Ridge (18-8) in the second round at home a week ago.
Down just 11-9 with a minute to play in the first quarter, three straight Demon turnovers led to six straight points by the Grizzlies and a 17-9 quarter deficit.
Deven Nelson dropped in a 3-pointer after his steal and layup to counter Aaron Smith’s 3-pointer, opening a ten-point lead, prior to an 8-0 Demon run that trimmed the advantage to 22-20. Glenwood drew within a point when Devon Ricketts was called for goal-tending on a shot by Gabe Suarez with 2:25 to go in the half, but Mesa Ridge closed out the quarter with nine straight points, for a 34-24 lead, triggered by a steal and dunk by DJ King.
Glenwood, seeded No. 11, fought back within seven, 36-29, on a drive by AJ Crowley half-way through the third period, but the Mesa Ridge press rattled the Demons into six turnovers, and they were outscored 18-0 in the final four minutes to trail 54-29 going to the fourth.
Crowley rebounded from an injured hip to lead the Demon scoring with 14 points, Angel Garcia scoring 7 and Chano Gonzalez and Luke Gair tallying 6 apiece, as did Holden Kleager, who also pulled down ten rebounds. Smith scored just five points, but dished out nine assists.
Nelson led the 22nd-ranked Grizzlies with 25 points, supported by 16 from King, and 14 from 6-5 Zac Ring, whose three blocks helped force Glenwood into shooting from outside where the Demons made just 3-of-14 treys.
Despite the disappointing finish to an undefeated league season that earned a first-round bye, Hitchcock saluted his three seniors, Smith, Crowley, and Suarez for leading Glenwood to three WSL championships in four years. “I am so proud of these boys,” he said afterwards.
Steamboat Springs (15-10) was also eliminated in the second round by Windsor (17-7), 46-31. Montrose (18-7) was the only Western Slope team to get to the Sweet 16 before falling to No. 1 Pueblo South (24-2), 52-26. No. 6 Pueblo West (20-6) edged Mesa Ridge in the next round, 69-67, before advancing to the Final Four at the Denver Coliseum.