Coal Ridge boys heading to final eight
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
By Dale Shrull
PEACH VALLEY ” Defense feeds offense and for a hungry team like the Coal Ridge Titans, it made for a thrilling feast and a ticket to the Class 3A Great 8 basketball tournament.
Saturday’s a 58-42 victory over Colorado Academy will send the Titans (21-3) to Fort Collins on Thursday.
Pretty impressive for a school that opened in 2005.
“We set the goal at the beginning of the year to make the Great 8 and now we’re there, so now we want to go past it,” senior Alex Klein said.
Defensively, the Titans used the presence of the 6-foot-8 Klein to clog up the lane and an occasional high-pressure full-court press to force turnovers and keep the Mustangs off balance.
Offensively, it was a combination of outside shooting and points off turnovers that kept the Titans in control throughout the game.
First-year Coal Ridge head coach Paul Harvey said having a big man like Klein in the lineup is a great luxury.
“We can spread out and let Andy (Smedra) do his thing. (Klein) is one of the best shot blockers in the state. He creates havoc and changes shots. He’s very talented on defense,” Harvey said.
“The offense is fueled by the defense,” Klein added.
Coal Ridge kept the defensive pressure on the Mustangs throughout the first half and opened a 16-11 lead after one quarter.
That’s when Klein and junior Andy Smedra took on the lead roles in this basketball drama. Klein was the defensive key and Smedra led the offense.
Klein was impenetrable force in the middle, a harassing long-armed road block that gave the Mustangs’ inside game fits all afternoon.
During the second quarter stretch, Klein had three blocked shots and one forced turnover ” all against the Mustangs’ 6-foot-6 senior David Jones ” to ignite the lightening-quick Titan offense.
Smedra took it from there. The smooth operating point guard scored the next 13 points for the Titans, including three 3-pointers to give the Titans a 29-15 lead.
When senior Eric Schmitz snapped the twine with a long 3-pointer from the top of the key, the Titans had a 32-17 lead.
The Mustangs scored the last six of the half, all by senior Phil Jones, to cut the lead to 34-27.
In the third quarter, the Titans were sputtering on the offensive end with turnovers and missed shots, so they looked to the bench for a spark and they found it in sophomore Nathan Terrin. Playing for Schmitz, who left the game with a sprained ankle, Terrin, who also had a pair of steals in the quarter, swished two 3-pointers from the right baseline to push the lead to 40-31. After a steal by Adam Miller, who fed Smedra for a layup, Terrin moseyed over to the left baseline where he drained his third 3 of the quarter, and the Titans held a comfortable 45-33 lead heading into the final quarter.
In the fourth, the Titans had their crosshairs firmly on punching their ticket to the Class 3A Great 8. A 3 by Miller, a layup by Smedra, then a nice pass from Smedra for a Klein layup and the Titans were on cruise control.
Senior Jonathan Roessler added a jumper and free throw to put the game on ice late in the fourth.
Smedra finished with a game-high 22 points with Terrin adding 9, and Roessler and Schmitz chipping in with 8 each. David Jones led the Mustangs with 16 and Phil Jones added 13.
Harvey says Smedra’s leadership was a big key.
“He’s like a coach on the floor,” Harvey said.
Smedra says he understands his role as the point guard.
“I like to get everyone involved and get everyone touches. This was a total team effort, there was no one man, everyone played together,” he said.
The Titans will be heading to Moby Arena on the Colorado State University campus in Fort Collins to open the tournament on Thursday.
According to the state brackets, Coal Ridge will face Eaton (20-4) in the opening round. Eaton defeated Lutheran, 56-46 to advance to the Great 8.
Harvey knows what it’s like to go for a state title, he was an assistant on the Grand Valley coaching staff when they won it all as a Class 2A school in 2007.
Now he’s excited for his Coal Ridge team to have a shot at a championship.
“They are such a good group of kids that I wanted them to experience state,” he said. ” I don’t know if they realize that we are just three wins away from a state championship. Anything can happen over there.”
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