Titans slip in second half to Reds
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
FORT COLLINS, Colorado ” Alex Klein drove hard to the basket for a layup and then watched helplessly as the official placed his hand on the back of his head to signal a charging foul.
With 3.8 seconds left in the third quarter, the look Klein wore said volumes about what had just happened.
After scrapping and clawing to a 28-all halftime tie in Thursday’s Class 3A boys basketball state quarterfinal at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Klein and his Coal Ridge teammates ran headfirst into an Eaton blitz, a rush that led to a 65-45 win for the Reds.
Klein’s Titans had just been outscored 20-6 in the quarter in a game that seemed very winnable only moments earlier.
“They stepped up their ‘D’ and got physical,” Coal Ridge coach Paul Harvey said. “We didn’t match it. We gave up some costly turnovers and just couldn’t get in the flow.”
Down 48-34 going into the fourth quarter, the Titans never recovered in what had been an air-tight game at the break.
Sparked by two 3-pointers by Eric Schmitz, including one from probably 30 feet out, Coal Ridge surged back from a six-point deficit late in the second quarter to head into halftime knotted at 28. The first half featured nine lead changes.
Schmitz led the Titans, now 21-4 and set to face 23-2 Aspen in today’s 11:45 a.m. consolation semifinal, with 21 points on 7-of-16 shooting. The senior guard, playing with a sprained ankle, shot 4-of-9 from three-point range.
“I was happy,” Harvey said. “Being tied at halftime was awesome. Their coach must have given a real good speech at halftime, because they came out fired up.”
Eaton’s Seth Lobato said taking a patient approach in the second half allowed his Reds (21-4) to break the game open.
“We were taking quick shots in the first half,” said the 6-foot-6-inch senior, who led all scorers with 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. “We weren’t getting much into our offense. In the second half, coach stressed moving the ball around, getting open looks.”
Lobato and the Reds, who take on Faith Christian (24-1) in tonight’s 7 p.m. semifinal, did just that. They shot a blistering 9-for-18 from the field in the third quarter. That clip included a breakaway dunk by Logan Hall that revved up the sea of red packing the stands at Moby Arena.
Hall, who finished with 18 points, added another crowd-charging dunk in the fourth quarter as Eaton stormed into the Final Four for the third time in as many years. The Reds finished third at state last year and won the 3A title back in 2007.
That experience paid off down the stretch.
“You know, with the experience of being here, I don’t think we had any jitters or anything,” Lobato said. “It’s great to play on this floor. It’s an awesome atmosphere with the fans and everything.”
Conversely, Coal Ridge is in the midst of its first trip to Class 3A’s round of eight in the school’s four-year existence.
Schmitz said he and the Titans should have no problem summoning the motivation to go out strong in Fort Collins. Coal Ridge could still finish as high as fifth. Not bad for a school in its relative infancy, the senior said.
“The season’s been great for us,” Schmitz stressed. “I think we can’t just think about losing this game. We still have one more game ” hopefully two more. It’s not over yet. We can still make it an even better season.”
Klein scored eight points and Andy Smedra six for the Titans, who will play Aspen today for the fourth time this season. Aspen’s won two of the three meetings to date, including a 73-42 victory over Coal Ridge in the Western Slope League district final.
With Smedra on the line to shoot free throws and no time on the clock at the end of the first half, coach Dean Grable’s Reds shuffled off the court.
One problem: Smedra hadn’t shot his free throws yet.
The move didn’t sit well with Harvey.
“They walked right by Andy when he was shooting free throws,” said the first-year Coal Ridge coach. “That was really a classless act.”
The move led to a post-game altercation between the coaching staffs as words were exchanged.
Although his Titans seemed rattled by Eaton’s premature intermission exit, Harvey wasn’t about to make excuses.
“(Our guys) were pretty upset when they pulled their team,” he said. “That fired ’em up. We were a little angry and we just didn’t channel it well. We weren’t real smart with the ball.”
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