Second-half fade costs Coal Ridge in 3A state tourney
FORT COLLINS — For the first two quarters, the Coal Ridge High School boys basketball team had an answer for everything Eaton threw at it. During the second half, the Titans had no answers, period.
Coal Ridge watched its state title hopes disappear in a hurry on Thursday, as Eaton took advantage of too many sloppy Titans turnovers to pull away in the second half for a 65-45 victory at Moby Arena in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A state tournament.
The Titans (21-4), who will return to Moby this morning for a consolation round matchup against Aspen, were outscored 20-6 in the third quarter and were unable to rally in the fourth.
“They stepped up their defense and started giving us some trouble,” Coal Ridge coach Paul
Harvey said. “They started hitting some shots, and we got down and had a hard time getting back. I never like to call a timeout when we’re getting our butts kicked, but it got away from us in the third quarter.”
Titans sharpshooter Eric Schmitz kept the game tied at the end of the first quarter and at halftime by making four three-pointers in the first half. Schmitz went into the break with 14 points but, like the rest of his teammates, found difficulty finding open space against the swarming Reds defense in the second half.
Schmitz was held scoreless in the third and managed only six points in the fourth, all of them coming in the final minutes after the outcome was already decided.
Seth Lobato led Eaton with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Coal Ridge’s Alex Klein finished with eight points and a team-leading 10 rebounds.
“They were face-guarding me, so it was tougher,” Schmitz said. “I didn’t do a good job of moving without the ball. I was focusing on our defensive end at the start of the second half because that is where they were beating us. The defensive adjustment on me definitely made it tougher.”
Faith Christian 64, Aspen 53: Trever Watson was not bothered by playing at the very un-basketball-like time of 8:45 a.m. Unfortunately for Aspen, too many of Watson’s teammates were stuck in “sleep” mode.
Watson made four 3-pointers and accounted for nearly half of Aspen’s scoring total with 26 points, yet it was not enough for the Skiers to overcome the relentless pressure defense unleashed by Faith Christian during the second and third quarters.
“Trever Watson, he played like a man possessed,” Aspen coach Steve Ketchum said. “A senior, a great leader giving it his all. We handled their knockout punch early, and then they exposed some our weaknesses with some skill levels that weren’t exactly where we need to be yet. We’re still trying to improve those.
“We got exposed by their pressure, their press. Yes, you prepare for it. Yes, you mimic it. But it is really hard to mimic what another team is going to do in a game when you have that kind of athleticism coming at you full blast.”
Watson made five of his first six shots and helped stake the Skiers (23-2) to a 17-12 lead at the end of the first quarter. Aspen extended the lead to 21-12 before Faith Christian, behind its dogged pressure, put together a 12-0 run to take the lead for good.
A 3-pointer by Watson at the second-quarter buzzer kept the Skiers within one point at the break, but the Eagles steadily pulled away after reeling off seven consecutive points midway through the third.
“That second quarter, we had a lot of things happen, but you have to play through it,” Watson said. “We were trying to play hard. But once you get down by that much, it’s hard to come back.”
The Cowboys’ late rally was thwarted as Eaton connected on six free throws in the final minute to record a 47-40 win.
Gunnison (19-6) was held without a field goal during the third quarter but managed to stay within striking distance, thanks to seven third-quarter free throws by Kaitie Vader. The Cowboys tied the game at 35-35 early in the fourth and remained within one point with just under two minutes remaining before Eaton iced the win at the free-throw line.
Vader finished with a game-best 20 points and Gunnison’s Kjirsten Nelson came off the bench to add 10 points and five rebounds. Lauren Woods paced Eaton with 16 points.
Crested Butte got 33 points from John Wright to defeat Flagler 53-46 in the Great Eight of the Class 1A state tournament at the University of Northern Colorado.
After a tight first half, Wright scored 20 of his game-high 33 points in the second half and Crested Butte hit 13 of 14 free throws in the fourth quarter.
The Titans play No. 7 seed Otis at 4 today in the semifinals.
Special to The Daily Sentinel