Jefferson Academy rallies past Roaring Fork in Great 8
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
FORT COLLINS, Colorado – Though a state title is no longer a possibility, Roaring Fork’s boys basketball team isn’t finished in Fort Collins.
“We plan to walk away with a trophy,” declared senior Jake Strack-Loertscher, standing in the bowels of Colorado State University’s Moby Arena after Thursday’s 48-44 loss to Jefferson Academy in the 3A state quarterfinals.
It just won’t be the trophy Strack-Loertscher and the Rams were hoping for.
Erasing an 11-point third-quarter deficit, Jefferson Academy stormed into the Final Four. The Jaguars (18-7) will face Valley in tonight’s 7 p.m. semifinal.
Roaring Fork (17-8) will begin its quest for a consolation championship against Brush at 11:45 a.m.
Early on against Jefferson Academy, it appeared as though the Rams were the Final Four-bound team.
After falling behind 5-0 at the outset, Roaring Fork closed out the first quarter with eight straight points – the final two on a Trae Moxley mid-range jumper in the waning seconds – to grab the early advantage in Thursday’s 8:45 a.m. game.
After Simeon Ukuni splashed in a 3-pointer with 3 minutes, 31 seconds left in the second quarter to give the Jaguars a 17-14 edge, the Rams erupted for nine unanswered points to finish out the half with a 23-17 lead.
Trent Reeds capped the run with a triple that riled up the sizable contingent of Roaring Fork fans that made the trek to Fort Collins.
Back-to-back Strack-Loertscher buckets – the second a putback that he followed up with a free throw – extended the Rams’ lead to 28-17 just 47 seconds into the third quarter.
And that’s about when the momentum began to tilt in Jefferson Academy’s direction.
Forcing turnovers and attacking Roaring Fork’s 1-3-1 zone, the Jaguars roared back to tie the game at 31 with 2:39 left in the third.
“We just came into the locker room and we knew we had to be more aggressive on offense,” Ukuni said. “We’d been practicing against this defense all week. Coach just told us to be more aggressive. We just went to the hole and attacked.”
And Jefferson Academy kept attacking.
A layup by Ukuni broke a 35-all tie to start the fourth quarter. Teammate Jason Propst followed with a spin move and a short bucket and Bryson Sharpley added a layup to make it 41-35 at the 6:28 mark.
The Jaguars’ lead grew to as big as 45-37 down the stretch as Roaring Fork’s offense went stagnant.
“We just didn’t execute,” Rams coach Larry Williams said. “Our offense was helter skelter and our defense was horrible in the second half. If you don’t execute, you
don’t deserve to win, and we didn’t deserve to win.”
It didn’t help matters that Strack-Loertscher battled foul trouble down the stretch. The 6-foot-4 senior piled up 16 points and seven rebounds before fouling out with 9.4 seconds left.
“I think some foul trouble obviously helped us,” Jefferson Academy coach Mark Sharpley said. “Both teams started getting into foul issues, but that fourth [on Strack-Loertscher] really hurt them.”
Moxley, Strack-Loertscher’s partner in crime in the frontcourt, finished with eight points and eight rebounds. Dalton Handy chipped in with seven points and Dakotah Grett six for Roaring Fork, the seventh seed in the 32-team playoff bracket.
Ukuni led the 15th-seeded Jaguars with 15 points. Julian Schmidt scored 13 and Jason Propst finished with 10 for the Broomfield-area school.
“We got that lead and we took it for granted,” Strack-Loertscher said. “We had it. We should have beat them, but there’s nothing we can really do about it now.”
While they can’t do anything about the Jefferson Academy setback, Strack-Loertscher and the Rams can win their final two games in Fort Collins, which would net them a fifth-place state finish.
“I think we’ll regroup real well and come out and fight hard tomorrow,” Williams said. “Hopefully, we fight harder than we did today.”
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Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org