Demons ousted by Panthers |

Demons ousted by Panthers

GRAND JUNCTION — It was a spot they never wanted to be in.

Entering the final week of a fantastic regular season, the Glenwood Springs High School boys basketball team had a Class 4A Western Slope League title in their sights. Instead, after a wrenching loss on Thursday in the 4A Western Slope District Tournament, the WSL runner-up needed a win against Delta on Friday to secure a state tournament berth.

In a back-and-forth thriller, however, the Demons were derailed by the Panthers, 51-48, and were eliminated from the district tournament.

As could be expected of a win-or-go-home contest, both teams played frantically early on. A pair of Peter Steckler 3s got the Demons going in the first quarter, giving Glenwood its first lead at 10-7 midway through the first quarter. The Demons solidified their early momentum with another 3 right before the first quarter horn sounded from sophomore Cameron Horning, making it a 15-9 game.

The tide turned completely in the second, however, and the Demons went ice cold from the floor and the free throw line, allowing Delta to surge on a 12-1 run. Horning finally ended the run with Glenwood’s first field goal in 6 minutes, but by then, the Panthers had built a 21-18 lead.

The Demons shot 1 for 12 from the line in the first half, and trailed 23-20 at the intermission.

In the third stanza, junior Zack Peterson looked to stir his team back to life offensively. A couple of quick buckets kept the Demons close. Then Horning kept swaying the momentum the Demons’ way with four points of his own to give Glenwood the 30-29 lead. Suddenly, the Panthers were on their heels, as Glenwood took a one-point advantage into the final quarter.

As the seconds ticked away, the weight of each play magnified. Suddenly, a 7-0 Delta run broke an early fourth quarter tie into a 43-36 game in favor of Delta. Glenwood challenged again with another surge, thanks to treys from Steckler and Horning to make it 46-42 with 2 minutes to play. Senior Jared Gambrel scored his only points of the night on two late 3s, but in the end, the rims would prove too unforgiving, and Delta sealed the game at the line.

Glenwood coach Cory Hitchcock reflected on in a tough loss. “The kids played hard. A couple of bounces just didn’t go our way.”

Horning finished with 14 points to lead all scorers. Steckler, in his final game as a Demon, poured in 11 and Peterson added eight. However, 1 for 13 free throw shooting doomed Glenwood.

Keaton Reiher led the Panthers with 12 points and hit four of the game-clinching free throws.

“I’m so proud of this group,” said Hitchcock, reflecting on his seniors and 2013-14 season as a whole, “They’re a good group of kids to coach.”

Delta (11-11) will face off against Steamboat Springs on Saturday for fifth place in the tournament, but more importantly, their spot is secure in the 4A state tournament. Glenwood Springs ended its season at 15-7.

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