Titans advance to 3A WSL tourney semis
The Coal Ridge Titans and Gunnison Cowboys split their basketball season series, with each team winning on its home court during the regular season Western Slope League schedule. Entering Tuesday night’s district playoff game at Peach Valley, Coal Ridge was the No. 4 seeded league team, with Gunnison right behind at No. 5. All indicators going into the game pointed to a back and forth, down to the wire, girls basketball matchup.
It looked as though things might work out that way for three quarters of play, but Coal Ridge used a 10-0 scoring run midway through the second half to break open a close game and advance to Friday’s WSL semifinals at Grand Junction Central High School with a 47-31 home victory.
Things started off slowly for both teams, as Coal Ridge’s first possession of the game saw an errant Titan pass bounce off the foot of post player Alexys Holder. The miscue was a harbinger of things to come, as both teams battled the turnover bug and ended the first quarter deadlocked at 8-8.
Jenny Call, Kaitlyn Harlow, Santana Martinez and Holder were the basket makers for Coal Ridge in the opening stanza, but in the second period of play, it was Holder who grabbed a rebound and scored underneath. The junior then notched a 3-pointer to give the Titans their biggest lead of the game at 15-11. The Cowboys’ Alex Lovato answered every Titan basket with some inside scores of her own, as she would give Gunnison a 16-15 lead at the halfway point.
The lead was short-lived as Coal Ridge would decisively outscore Gunnison 24-7 in a second half that saw a Titan scoring flurry keyed by two baskets from Call, a couple of tosses from the charity stripe by Martinez, and another 3-pointer from Holder that took the Titans from a 24-23 deficit, to a 32-24 lead.
Senior guard Jenny Call, who has been on the Titan varsity since her freshman year, knew her team needed a lift at a critical juncture in the game.
“I was getting a little worried,” said Call, speaking of her team trailing in the district elimination game. “Basketball is a team game, and I knew the team would come through. We play for each other all the time.”
Holder led the way for the Titans in the scoring column with 16 points, including three 3-pointers. Call was right behind with 14 points.
Coal Ridge will now take its 9-11 overall record against Moffat County this Friday in Grand Junction.
BOYS: COAL RIDGE 84, OLATHE 48
The Coal Ridge boys started the district playoffs the same way that they ended the regular season, with a runaway victory against the Olathe Pirates, this time by a score of 84-48.
When junior guard Hunter Gerber rose up and floated down the lane for an emphatic slam dunk, the clock showed 2:01 to play in the first half, and the Titans had rocketed out to a 45-18 lead, which would top out at 52-20 at intermission. The home crowd was having a good time, and so were the Titans.
The Coal Ridge offensive barrage started early, and it came often. Guard Eziel Ruiz hit a 3-pointer, Gerber scored inside, and Jake Solinger followed that with a basket and a 3-pointer. When Greyson Keener hit an arching shot in the lane, the visitors from Olathe must have felt like the little boy holding his finger in the dike.
Dan Schouten got into the scoring act in the second quarter, as did nifty ball-handler Brandon Herrera, who hit a couple of 3-pointers, and Coal Ridge was off to the races.
The second half followed the expected script as the Titans maintained a 30-point cushion on the scoreboard for much of the time, with some young and talented reserves taking over the duty in the fourth period.
The top Titan scorers on the night were Solinger with 20 points, Gerber had 13 points, and Keener contributed 12 points. Coal Ridge now takes its 14-6 record to GJ Central High School for Friday’s WSL playoff semifinals against the Roaring Fork Rams, whom the Titans beat twice during the regular season. Tip-off is set for 8:30 p.m.
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