Rams net clutch 3-pointer for win
Post Independent Staff
FORT COLLINS ” A little under two seconds were left on the clock.
The ball circled the rim, bounced off the back of the iron and up in to the air, where it seemed to hang for an hour.
But then, it dropped through.
And just like that an A.J. Joiner 3-pointer lifted Roaring Fork to a 52-49 victory over Faith Christian and into the semifinals of the Class 3A boys state basketball tournament.
With 1:23 in the contest, Christian Tena hit a pair of free throws to put the Rams up 49-46. Faith Christian then shot 3-of-4 from the free-throw line to tie the game with 39 seconds to go.
As the Rams walked the ball down the court, head coach Roger Walters called a timeout with 17.2 seconds left and made a plan for his team ” a perfect plan, perfectly executed.
“I told them ‘we are going to put it in our best kid’s hands (Tena’s)’ and his job was to find Kyle (Raaflaub) or A.J. … and A.J. knocked it down,” Walters said of the strategy discussed during the timeout.
Tena drove hard to the hoop and the Eagles’ defense collapsed around him. He looked out to the perimeter and dished the ball to Joiner, who made his first and only 3-point attempt of the game.
“Christian is our best player, so we got the ball in his hands and flattened out and he took it to the hole and just made something up,” Joiner said. “I hadn’t shot a 3 all game long, and then Christian gave me a real good pass and I just threw it up there. It was sweet.”
Faith Christian had one last chance when Vince Colson threw up a desperation shot from half court, but his shot bounced of the back of the rim and out. As the buzzer sounded, the yellow-shirted Ram crowd and the Roaring Fork bench went wild.
“It was so exciting,” Walters said. “It is something that he and his teammates, the staff and the community will remember for the rest of our lives.”
The Rams will now be playing in the 3A final four for the third-straight year. They will face the winner of the Kent Denver-Pagosa Springs game at 5:30 p.m., at Moby Arena at Colorado State University.
In the first half Raaflaub totaled seven points, including one 3-pointer, while Kade Gianinetti and Trevor Hunt scored four each to keep the Rams in the game, trailing 23-21 at halftime.
The Rams went on an 8-0 run to start the third quarter and then in the second half of the frame, Raaflaub drained another 3, then hit three free throws when he was fouled while shooting behind the arc and then sank another.
“When Kyle gets on a roll everyone on the team kinda knows where he’s at and he was feeling it tonight and we needed it,” Walters said.
The Rams entered the final frame up 42-36, but that is when the Eagles, aided by two Ram turnovers and four offensive rebounds, compiled an 8-1 streak of their own. Tena made a jumper, four free throws and a critical steal after Faith Christian’s Graham Yantis pick-pocketed Derek Parker to put the Rams up 49-46.
Defensively, the Rams held a high-powered offensive team ” averaging 75 points a game ” to only 49 points, and its two best scorers, Abram Ziemer and Yantis, to eight and 11 points, respectively.
“Defensively, we just picked up where we left off last week,” Walters said. “We got a tough bunch of blue-collar kids that buy into a scheme and they are real successful.”
Joiner finished the game with seven points ” going 1-of-1 from 3-point land and 4-of-4 from the free-throw line. Feeling like he wasn’t contributing, Joiner said he got down on himself during the game.
“I was nervous and I was frustrated with myself,” Joiner said. “I felt like I had let my teammates down.”
If anyone felt that way, they don’t anymore.
Raaflaub scored three 3s and totaled a game-high 16 points, Tena scored 11 and grabbed nine rebounds, brothers Trevor and Tyler Hunt combined for eight points and Gianinetti added six.
Whether the stats showed it or not, the win came as a result of a team effort where each Ram stepped up.
“There are so many things that each one of these boys do that don’t show up in the box scores,” Walters said. “It’s not all about scoring, it’s about doing a lot of the little things and for the most part, we do a lot of the little things.”
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