Coal Ridge boys win nail-biter over Olathe, win 3A WSL title
A victory on Senior Night and a continuation of an undefeated Western Slope League season was the order of the evening for Head Coach Paul Harvey’s Coal Ridge boys, as the Titans ran out to a big lead after three quarters of play, and held on by the skin of their teeth for a nail-biting 72-69 win, Thursday evening in New Castle, claiming the third straight league championship for the Coal Ridge boys program.
“They know they didn’t play their best tonight, but they have bigger goals this year,” Harvey said. “Winning three straight championships is nice, but they want to go further in the state playoffs this year, which are things that have never really been done here at Coal Ridge. But the three straight championships is very cool and a huge honor. We’re not going to take it for granted, but these guys have their goals set a little higher.”
Lightning struck in the form of five boys wearing home white uniforms near the midway point of the second quarter, as Coal Ridge broke open a 21-all deadlock with a 17-0 scoring run that left the visiting Pirates wondering if anyone got the plate number of the truck that just ran them over.
It all started with a floating bank shot from the right side of the lane from senior Brandon Herrera. The postman then rang twice as 6’7’’ Kevin DiMarco got a couple of nice feeds on the block to drop in two more Titan baskets. Junior Jesus Camunez got a couple baskets of his own, one from beyond the arc, and 6’8” senior Connor Detlefsen gathered in a rebound and scored on the block as Coal Ridge was running hot. High-rising rebounder Payton White then stepped outside the 3-point line to hit his second long ball of the half as the Titans trotted to the locker room up 38-21.
Senior Brody Morgan opened the second half with a 3-pointer and White backed that up with one of his own moments later to stretch the lead to what seemed an insurmountable 44-33. Sophomore Jared Whitaker capped off the third quarter with a couple of baskets of his own, and it looked as though the Titans could rest comfortably.
The unthinkable then began to happen in the fourth quarter as Olathe went on a 3-point shooting barrage led by guards Dawson Walraven, Jorge Gonzalez, and Mackenzie Cox. The visitors crept to within 61-55 with 3:46 left to play, as steals off of full-court pressure turned into layups, forcing Harvey to call a timeout.
Leading 63-60, Coal Ridge dodged a bullet when Olathe’s Cox missed three consecutive free throws that could have tied the game at the 2:33 mark. Detlefsen and White hit key free throws down the stretch, and White came up with a critical steal near midcourt as the Titan fans were finally able to exhale.
White led the Titans in scoring with a season-high 18 points. DiMarco tallied 13 points, with Herrera and Detlefsen chipping in 10 points.
Coal Ridge (16-2, 8-0) will now take a trip to Gunnison on Saturday afternoon to conclude the regular season portion of the 3A schedule.
COAL RIDGE 50, OLATHE 44
Coach Clyde Morgan and the Coal Ridge girls basketball team honored seniors Cheyanne Williams, Santana Martinez, Sam Dunn, Paige Harlow, and Jessica Feese prior to Thursday night’s home game against the Olathe Pirates, and then sent the elder statesmen out in style with a 50-44 Western Slope League victory.
Harlow and Martinez jump started the Titans with a free throw and an inside basket for a quick 3-0 lead. Coming off the bench, freshman Taylor Wiescamp scored on a lob assist from the perimeter, and junior Alyssa Wenzel knocked down a 3-pointer as Coal Ridge came out of the blocks smoking.
Some trips to the charity stripe and a 3-pointer from Olathe’s Bailey Harris got the Pirates on the board as the visitors trailed 13-9 at the end of one period.
Juniors Adriana Vargas and Kashley Morgan got baskets, as did Dunn for Coal Ridge, and the Titans stretched their lead to 30-18 at the halftime break.
Olathe senior guard Megan Young, who poured in 27 points against Roaring Fork a couple weeks back, was bottled up by an aggressive Titans defense that held the stalwart to just 3 first half points, and a total of 7 points for the game.
The Titans, defending and dominating the rebounds on both ends of the court, got an inside basket from Wiescamp to start the second half and Harlow hit a couple of free throws as the home team had doubled up the Pirates by a count of 36-18 with 4:26 left in the third. Feese and Martinez added baskets as the lead became comfortable at 40-27.
Coal Ridge (9-9, 4-4 WSL) broke things wide open at the 5:20 mark of the last quarter when Vargas got a steal and galloped the length of the court for a layup to make it 48-29. Young and fellow senior Cathy Hardman, who led the Olathe scoring with 13 points, got late baskets to get the home fans attention, but the Titan mark in the win column was never seriously threatened.
The Titans, who boasted scoring from Wiescamp (11 points), and Vargas, Martinez, Morgan, and Wenzel (all with 6 points), will make the long trek to Gunnison on Saturday to close out the regular season.
Sports Editor Josh Carney contributed the Paul Harvey quotes to this story.
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The Coal Ridge High School boys and girls basketball teams will both be home Tuesday night to open the Class 3A state basketball tournament.