Despite effort, Coal Ridge falls to Strasburg
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
ARVADA ” Coal Ridge may have lost Friday’s first-round Class 3A state boys basketball playoff game, but at least the Titans can say it took more than one knockout punch to send them on their way.
Buoyed by their perimeter marksmanship, the Titans rallied from a 10-point deficit entering the fourth quarter to make a game of it with Strasburg before losing 71-62 at Faith Christian Academy in Arvada.
Trying to rattle a Strasburg team that was trying to grind the clock out, Coal Ridge closed the gap to as little five points (63-58) late in the fourth, something head coach Brian Blair credited to the team’s fighting spirit.
“They play with a lot of heart,” Blair said of his team, which finished up the year with a 14-9 record. “Never, at any point, did they give up. I think I could have coached a little better, getting the right personnel in there and things like that.”
Skyler James led Coal Ridge, in just its third year of existence, with 19 points. Eric Schmitz and Andy Smedra each chipped in 17 points.
Schmitz drained a pair of long 3-pointers down the stretch that kept the Titans within striking distance, but the team couldn’t overcome a third-quarter lull that put Coal Ridge in a 10-point hole after trailing by just one at halftime.
“We gave up the first six points in the second half and the put us behind a little,” Blair said. “That forced us to play a little out of control to try and get them to play out of control.”
Justin Gallagher led a balanced Strasburg effort with 18 points, Jon Lee and Thomas Byrns added 14 points apiece.
The reward for Friday’s win for Strasburg (17-6), is a meeting with the No. 1 team in the state, Faith Christian, this afternoon.
Though he knows taking on the likes of Faith will be arduous, Strasburg coach Jeromy Johnson thinks his kids are ready for the challenge.
“It’s our chance to shock the world,” he said. “We’ve talked about it all year long, but in the Patriot League we play some of the toughest teams in the state, like Eaton and Yuma.”
For Coal Ridge, it marks the end of the most successful season in school history, and Blair and his coaching staff relished the shot to coach a gritty group of Titans.
“I love this team,” he said. “It’s an excellent group. They love playing together. The fact that it hurt them so much to lose shows much passion they have for the game.”
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