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Rams fall short at state championships

FORT COLLINS ” Defense got the Roaring Fork boys over the hump many times this season, but it wasn’t going to beat the best team in Class 3A basketball Saturday night.

The Rams forced the Denver Christian Crusaders into nine first-half turnovers and had the defending state champions where they wanted them at halftime.

But the Crusaders controlled the pace in the second half and eventually pulled away for the 68-52 win at CSU’s Moby Arena for their second straight 3A title. DC concluded the season 28-1.



The Rams, 49-39 semifinals winners over Pagosa Springs Friday, finished the season at 23-3.

“We struggled shooting all night and just didn’t play well,” said third-year coach Roger Walters. “We played defense, but in a big game you have to play great and coach great ” we didn’t do either tonight.”



The Rams never led in the game, but kept the Crusaders in striking distance. After DC took an 11-6 lead in the first quarter Roaring Fork went on a 10-4 run to close out the first half, thanks to three 3-pointers by Rams’ junior Kyle Raaflaub.

Raaflaub finished with 10 first-half points but never scored again.

It was pretty much the same story for the rest of the Roaring Fork team, which continued to frustrate the Crusaders with tough pressure defense but couldn’t chip away at the lead.

Senior Christian Tena paced the Rams with 16 points and six rebounds before fouling out with 1 minute, seven seconds left to play; fellow senior Derek Parker finished with eight points.

“It was just one of those nights,” said Parker Nieslanik, one of five seniors who played their last game in a Rams uniform. The others are fellow starters Parker, A.J. Joiner and reserve player Ricardo Porras.

“I wanted to win a state championship bad, but there’s nothing bad about finishing second two years in a row,” Nieslanik said. “It’s hard, but we can be proud of our high school basketball careers.”

The Rams outrebounded the larger Crusaders 39-30.

“Those Roaring Fork kids play hard and have good character,” Crusader coach Dick Katte said. “But when we were playing good defense, our size really hurt them.”

DC’s Brent Schuster, held scoreless in the first half, exploded for 12 second-half points.

Schuster’s bucket underneath in the fourth quarter gave them their biggest lead of the game to that point, 46-35.

“For us to beat a team like that the score has to be in the 40s. The tempo just got out of hand in the third,” Walters said.

It was the second straight year Roaring Fork has finished as the runner-up to DC. Roaring Fork lost to the Crusaders last year, 56-45.

“I’m pound of these boys, they’ve got big hearts,” Walters said. “You’ve got to keep knocking on the door before you get it, and we’ll keep on knocking.”

Denver Christian senior Cameron Matthies had a game-high 21 points. His twin brother Tristan had 14.


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