Rams clinch league title; remain unbeaten
GYPSUM ” The Roaring Fork boys basketball team was looking for a knockout punch and got it in the form of a 60-39 victory over Eagle Valley here Friday night.
With the win the Rams clinched the Class 3A Western Slope League title and remained unbeaten during the season. The Devils dropped to 11-2 in Slope play ” their only two losses coming at the hands of Roaring Fork ” and will finish in second place.
“You’ve got to give Roaring Fork credit,” said Devils coach Phil Cain. “They came out and played good defense. We’re disappointed with ourselves and the way we played, but on the other hand, we know we have another opportunity to improve this week.”
The Devils jumped on the Rams early as Cody Gerard knocked down an open jumper and then buried a 3-pointer to jump out to an early 5-2 advantage, the Devils’ only lead of the night.
The Rams swung back and kept the punches coming, though, going on a 7-0 run to steal back the momentum. The action flip-flopped back and fourth throughout the remainder of the first period, as the teams played aggressively at both ends of the floor, each squad trying to out-hustle the other. But the Rams had more success on offense, taking a 17-12 lead into the second quarter.
The Rams were keyed by big man Nic Lough in the paint as well as shifty point guard Aaron Markham, who dropped in two putbacks to open the game up.
Gerard propped up the Devils’ struggling offensive attack in the opening period, dropping in 10 of Eagle Valley’s 12 points.
The fight swung in Eagle Valley’s favor in the second quarter with the Devils going on the offensive behind baskets from Jerad Schlegel, Sean Bartlett and free throws from Gerard. The Devils got as close as 22-20 before the Rams picked up the pace.
Down by 11 at the break, the Devils tried to hang in the game in the third quarter as best they could with their star player Gerard on the bench with four fouls, but they couldn’t sustain any momentum offensively.
The Rams, on the other hand saw blood, and continued to apply the pressure both offensively and defensively, pushing the lead to 14 points heading into the final period.
Dan Markoya and Tommy Joiner were the catalysts behind the Rams’ third-quarter offensive surge as Joiner scored the first three Roaring Fork buckets for six points and Markoya added three.
Markoya’s one field goal in the period came off a rocket backdoor pass from Markham that found the 6-foot-4 senior all alone under the hoop for the easy put-in.
With the Rams leading by 46-32 heading into the fourth quarter, the damage to the Devils had already been done, but the Rams didn’t let up.
Eagle Valley didn’t get closer than 12 points and the Rams closed out the game with eight consecutive points for the lopsided win.
“I’m just really tickled for the kids,” said Rams coach Roger Walters. “We beat a quality team tonight. They are really athletic and well-coached. We caught them on a good night because they didn’t shoot very well, but our kids executed at both ends of the floor and I’m really proud of them.”
Markoya paced the Rams with 15 points, while Markham and Lough hit for 12 and 11, respectively.
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Amid hundreds of cleat-footed little leaguers casually gathered along the first baseline, the glare of parents’ sunglasses deflecting the early morning sun, coach Troy Phillips began a trip down memory lane.