Titans split with Cardinals in rivalry showdown
If there happened to be any doubts about just how good this year’s version of the Coal Ridge Titans boys basketball team was this season prior to Tuesday’s matchup with the rival Grand Valley Cardinals inside “The Nest” in Parachute, those doubts were soon erased after the Titans passed their hardest test of the season to date with flying colors, rolling to a 70-54 win on the road in a 3A Western Slope League showdown.
Holding a 12-point lead at the half against the rival Cardinals, Coal Ridge would outscore Grand Valley 34-30 in the second half to cap off the 16-point win in an up-tempo matchup between two high-scoring offenses.
“Grand Valley has vastly improved this season, even dating back to summer ball when we saw them,” Coal Ridge Head Coach Paul Harvey said. “We knew how tough they were going to be coming into tonight, so we decided to hang our hat on defense with tons of pressure and getting a hand up on each of their shots. We knew they hadn’t seen a defensive pressure like the one we could play.”
The fast, physical defense worked to near perfection in the first quarter as the Titans raced out to a 20-7 lead after one quarter of play, holding the Cardinals to single digits while getting out on the fast break for some easy buckets.
Coal Ridge would start the game with back-to-back three-pointers from junior guards Jan Hernandez and Brandon Herrera to jump out to a 6-1 lead.
Grand Valley junior guard Brandon Hagerty would then respond with a tough driving layup for the Cardinals to cut the deficit in half, but from there the Titans would go on an 11-0 run as Hernandez hit two free throws before senior forward Hunter Gerber picked up a steal and a layup in transition to make it 10-3 Titans.
Hernandez would then cash in two more free throws before junior center Dylan Allen would hit a tough layup in traffic, leading to a three-pointer from Gerber to make it 17-3 late in the first quarter.
Following Gerber’s three, Grand Valley would regroup offensively as sophomore forward Indra Griggs would get a tough putback to fall before junior forward Garrett Magee would hit two free throws to make it 17-7 Titans. But in a sign of things to come the rest of the night, Hernandez would hit a tough layup in traffic, drawing the foul and sinking the free throw for the three-point play to close the quarter with the Titans holding a 13-point lead.
Looking to keep up the fast-paced action, it was the Cardinals’ turn to start the second quarter as junior guard Jeff Holbrook and Magee got layups to fall before Coal Ridge sophomore center Kevin DiMarco answered quickly with a tough putback shot under the rim to make it 22-11 Coal Ridge.
After DiMarco got the Titans going in the second quarter, Hagerty would split a pair of free throws for the Cardinals before Gerber would answer with two of his own to keep pace.
From there the two teams would trade buckets as Grand Valley senior forward Austin Walck and DiMarco exchanged buckets in the paint.
Later in the quarter, Grand Valley junior guard Laytham Magana would splash home the Cardinals’ first three-pointer of the game to pull Grand Valley to 31-22, but DiMarco would answer with another bucket, giving him nine points in the second quarter alone, setting up Hernandez’s heroics at the buzzer.
Coming off of a loose-ball scramble near the free throw line, Hernandez was able to gather the ball and put up a shot at the horn while drawing the foul. The junior’s shot would fall for the three-point play, igniting the Coal Ridge bench heading into the half with a 36-24 lead.
Hernandez was well on his way to the best game of his young high school career. The junior guard would finish with 20 points in the win, leading the Titans in scoring for the first time this season.
“That’s the best game he’s had at this level,” Harvey said. “I’ve seen him play well at both ends of the floor this year, but he really brought an extra level tonight. Offensively they just couldn’t guard him. He was able to hit shots outside and then when he got into the lane he knew exactly what to do with the ball. He was remarkable for us.”
After the half, behind Hernandez’s spark at the buzzer, Coal Ridge would come out to start the third quarter and go on a quick 10-0 run highlighted by a monster block in the paint by DiMarco, who would then run the floor and receive a perfect feed from Herrera at the other end for the layup to make it 46-24 Titans quickly.
Grand Valley would call a timeout and then answer with two straight buckets coming out of the quick break as Hagerty and junior guard Kade Hurst hit runners in the lane to get the Cardinals going offensively.
Following Hurst’s bucket, DiMarco and Hagerty would trade buckets before Coal Ridge junior guard Aaron Arreola would hit his first three-pointer of the night to make it 51-30 Titans late in the third quarter.
The Cardinals would respond by going on a 6-1 run to close the quarter, capped off by a Hagerty three-pointer to send the two teams into the final quarter of play with the Titans holding a 52-36 lead.
In the fourth, Grand Valley would find its rhythm offensively, but it would be too little too late as Magee would hit back-to-back three-pointers in the frame as the Cardinals would go on to score the final 12 points of the quarter, closing out the 70-54 win for the Titans.
With the win, Coal Ridge (10-5, 4-1 3A WSL) sets up a showdown next Tuesday with the Basalt Longhorns (11-1, 3-0 3A WSL) with possible league title implications on the line.
“The boys know what’s at stake next week,” Harvey said. “They want to play well and prove that we’re still a really good team and hopefully show people that we’re an elite program, which is what we want to be.”
For the Titans, Hernandez led the way with 20 points, while DiMarco added 16 points and Gerber finished with 14 points. In the win, Gerber also set the Coal Ridge all-time record for rebounds in a career, finishing with seven in the game to set the new mark.
For the Cardinals (7-7, 2-2 3A WSL), Hagerty finished with 16 points, while Magee added 13 points. Griggs chipped in with eight points.
GRAND VALLEY 57, COAL RIDGE 27
Hoping to stay hot in league play Tuesday night, the Grand Valley Cardinals girls basketball team took care of business early, rolling to a 30-point win on its home floor over the visiting Coal Ridge Titans, 57-27.
Behind the big three of seniors Kylyn Rigsby and Bailey Rowe, as well as sophomore Shaya Chenoweth, the Cardinals had the hot hand at both ends of the floor, holding the Titans to single digits in three of the four quarters defensively, while hitting double digits in all four quarters in the win.
Offensively, it all started with Chenoweth, who scored eight points in the first quarter to push the Cardinals out to an 18-4 lead with a majority of her points coming in the paint in the run-and-gun Grand Valley offense.
“Shaya really gets us going,” Grand Valley Head Coach Jake Higuera said. “Obviously Kylyn does, as well, but with the way Shaya runs the floor, plays defense and brings energy to us at both ends, she really sparks the team every single night. She gets to the basket so well and is always at the free throw line. She just never really stops with her energy and is always on the floor.”
For Grand Valley (8-6, 4-0 3A WSL), Rigsby finished with a game-high 22 points, while Chenoweth and Rowe chipped in with 16 and 14 points, respectively.
For Coal Ridge (2-12, 0-5 3A WSL), Martinez, Vargas, Wenzel and Dunn led the way with four points each.
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Rifle High School played host to area prep wrestlers from Glenwood Springs, Coal Ridge and Grand Valley in the nine-team Rumble in the Rockies wrestling tournament on Saturday.