PEACH VALLEY(2/24/15) – “That was a little too exciting,” Coal Ridge coach Paul Harvey remarked after his Titans advanced to the next round in 3A Western Slope League district play with a 61-56 win over Gunnison Tuesday.
The fourth-seeded Titans (10-10), who will meet No. 1 Moffat County (16-4) on Friday at Grand Junction Central High School, and trailed the fifth-seeded Cowboys (6-12) 55-54 with a minute to play, took the lead for good on a drive to the basket by Jake Solinger with an “and one” free throw beginning a 5-of-7 closing stretch from the line that clinched the victory.
Harvey, whose team suffered from injury and eligibility problems in the regular season finale, a 45-38 win over winless Olathe, was happy to be back at full strength. Junior 6-3 post Greyson Keener did not start and was hobbled at times as he worked back from an ankle injury, but was effective in slowing down Gunnison’s big man, Trey Percival, and did contribute 6 points and 4 rebounds. Sophomore scoring leader Hunter Gerber, returning from an eye injury, had trouble finding his 3-point shooting range, missing his first five attempts, but was able to get to the line frequently where he nailed 9-of-11, including 3-of-4 in the game’s critical final 40 seconds, and led all scorers with 20 points.
Gerber’s mates picked him up from beyond the arc as freshman Brandon Herrera would begin the Titan scoring with a first-quarter trey and add two more on the way to scoring 14 points. Solinger also splashed in a pair of 3-pointers as Coal Ridge opened a 6-point first-period lead before the Cowboys drew within 15-12 at quarter’s end.
The teams exchanged leads four times in the second quarter, with Sergio Cano coming off the bench to swish a 3-pointer just before halftime for a 26-22 Titan lead. Brevin Book led a Cowboy comeback, scoring his team’s first ten points in the third period as Gunnison knotted the score at 34, but two free throws from Keener, and triples by Herrera and Gerber kept the Titans ahead, 43-41 going into the fourth quarter.
Gunnison tied the score three times in the first four minutes, but each time the Titans regained the lead until fortunes reversed at the free throw line. While Coal Ridge was missing the front end of three 1-and-1 opportunities, the Cowboys, who were 2-of-10 from the stripe in the first half, made 3-of-4 to draw within a point, 54-53. Dylan Miller’s drive along the baseline gave Gunnison its first lead since the game’s opening basket, but Solinger and Gerber put the Titans back in front. A steal by Solinger with 30 seconds left and 3-of-4 free throws by Herrera and Gerber secured a place in next week’s state tournament for Coal Ridge. No. 2 Grand Valley (16-3) will take on No. 3 Roaring Fork (14-6) in the other semi-final game Friday in Grand Junction.
LADY TITANS 51, GUNNISON 29
“What do I think?” echoed former Lady Titan coach and father of senior shooting guard Mariela Martinez before the first-round tournament game with Gunnison. “I’m worried because Kevin (Mickelson, Cowgirls coach) always seems to pull a first-round upset.” Not this time, despite three early fouls by Martinez that kept her scoreless in the first half.
Junior point guard Jenny Call got the Titans (10-10) off to a sizzling start with back-to-back 3-pointers to open the game and help No. 4 seed Coal Ridge take an 11-5 first-quarter lead over fifth-seeded Gunnison (5-14).
Call hit two more treys and junior post Kaitlyn Detlefsen poured in 8 points as the Titans surged ahead 27-9 by halftime.
Detlefsen continued to score inside, adding 11 second-half points on the way to a game-high 22. Call finished with 12 on 4-of-7 three-pointers and Martinez added 7 points in the final two quarters as Coal Ridge easily advanced to Friday’s second round match-up at Grand Junction Central with top seed Olathe (19-1), which crushed Aspen 66-16.
Tuesday’s four first-round winners have clinched a place in next week’s 32-team 3A state tournament field, and will fight it out in WSL weekend play for seeding. No. 2 Moffat County (15-5) will take on No. 3 Grand Valley (10-8) in the other semi-final game.