Plateau Valley finishes fifth in Class 1A tourney
LOVELAND — The Plateau Valley High School boys basketball team left the Budweiser Events Center wearing smiles and carrying heads high.
That demeanor might not have been expected at the start of weekend.
The Cowboys completed their turnaround from their rough quarterfinal by beating Norwood 50-47 on Saturday afternoon in the Class 1A fifth-place game. Plateau Valley, making its first appearance at state since 1990, finished the season 19-5.
“I think the biggest thing we’ll take away is knowing that we belong,” Plateau Valley coach John Holmes said. “We weren’t happy just coming to state. We knew we belonged here and knew we could beat quality teams over here.”
Just as the Cowboys showed their resilience Friday, bouncing back to beat Stratton, they were tested by the Mavericks, who went on a 6-0 run in the final 29 seconds of the first half. Matt Hanniga capped the spurt with a jumper just before the buzzer.
Down 26-16 at halftime, the Cowboys opted not to make adjustments but rather to trust their defense and inside play.
“We didn’t panic,” Holmes said. “We knew we had to chip away at it slowly. We just kept working the ball inside and kept cutting into the lead.”
They had shown a presence inside early, compiling eight offensive rebounds in the first half, but many of those second chances did not result in points.
Senior Doug Eberhard made the inside play start clicking as he scored 10 of his game-high 25 in the third quarter. He gave the Cowboys their first lead at 31-30 when he tipped in a miss at the third-quarter buzzer.
The 5-0 spurt in the final 56 seconds was a boost for the Cowboys.
“We knew if we kept rolling with it, we’d keep going and we’d keep pulling away from them, further and further,” Eberhard said.
His three-point play and layup early in the fourth pushed Plateau Valley’s lead up to 36-31.
Senior Teddy Grundy, quiet on offense in the first half, found his touch late, scoring 10 of his 14 points in the fourth.
The finish, as might be expected in a game between rivals playing for a third time, turned out to be a “mighty nerve-wracking” one for the Cowboys, Holmes said.
Trailing 44-35 lead midway through the fourth, Norwood outscored the Cowboys 9-3 during the next 2:30. After a steal, Nick Rushing’s 3-point bid to tie the game at 47-47 was off.
After a free throw from Grundy made it 48-44 with 1:01 to play, Morgan Rummel buried a 3-pointer to cut it to 48-47.
On the next possession, Norwood found Rummel, who finished with 15 points, at the top of the key for another 3, but it was off. Rushing led Norwood with 23 points.
Two free throws from Kyler Smith restored the cushion at 50-47. Norwood took two shots to tie the game in the final 15 seconds but missed both.
“We just played good defense today,” Eberhard said. “It was a good day.”