Rams settle for third at state
FORT COLLINS ” The No. 2 seed Roaring Fork boys kept their intensity high after losing a tough semifinal game to Platte Valley Friday night, claiming third place at the Class 3A High School State Championships on Saturday with a convincing 59-35 win over No. 13 Eaton.
Unlike in Friday’s 63-52 loss to Platte Valley, when Roaring Fork dug itself a 19-8 hole in the first quarter, the Rams gained the upper hand on the Eaton Reds early, taking a 14-9 lead in the first eight minutes and outscoring the lower seed in every quarter of play.
The Reds pulled to within four, 23-19, early in the third quarter. But about the only offense Eaton could muster came from 6-foot-10 post player Levi Dyer, who led all scorers with 23 points.
The Rams’ balanced attack inside and out, combined with their usual tenacious defense, allowed Roaring Fork to build a 43-25 lead at the end of the third quarter.
“When the shots are falling, it makes it a lot more enjoyable,” said senior Jake Boyle, who led the Rams against Eaton with 21 points. “We were determined to not go out on a losing note here.”
“It’s definitely awesome,” said fellow senior Dan Markoya, who added 17 points, including a two-handed slam dunk just before the half that ” despite a technical for hanging on the rim ” served notice that the Reds were no match for the Western Slope’s top team.
“This is such a good team we put together this year. We all care so much about each other, and it was just great to be here,” Markoya added.
Said first-year Roaring Fork coach Roger Walters, “All we wanted to do was come out and play our same tough defense and keep up the offensive intensity, and we knew we were going to be OK.”
Platte Valley 63, Roaring Fork 52
The 26-1 Rams’ undefeated season came to an end at the hands of No. 3 seed Platte Valley and its 7-foot senior post player, Jason Smith, who went on Saturday night to fall to D’Evelyn, 50-45, in the state championship game.
After Roaring Fork got off to a slow start in the semifinal contest, the Rams tried to make a game of it, holding even with the Broncos in the second quarter to trail 36-24 at halftime.
With 4:35 to play in the half and with his team down 27-12, Markoya split a pair of Platte Valley defenders, including Smith, for a thundering dunk that changed the complexion of the game.
Roaring Fork stepped it up a notch and chipped away at the lead, until junior Nic Lough scored in the final ticks before the half to cut the lead to 12.
The Rams came out with nothing but a win on their minds, outscoring Platte Valley 17-11 in the third to trail by just six, 47-41, at the end of the stanza, which saw Smith exit the game with his fourth foul at the 4:22 mark.
Smith signed to play basketball for Colorado State University before the season and will likely see a lot more action in the coming years in Moby Arena, the host venue for the 3A basketball tournament.
He re-entered Friday’s game in the fourth quarter, managing stay away from his fifth foul and getting some huge help from teammates Dominic Navarro, Erik Buehler and Andy Milligan down the stretch to seal the win.
Smith led all scorers with 22 points, while Navarro had 13 and Milligan 10.
Markoya paced Roaring Fork with 17, while Lough and Aaron Markham had 13 each for the Rams.
“Maybe it was some nervousness, and refusing to run our stuff in the beginning,” Lough said of the slow start. “You look at the book, and if we didn’t have that hole in the first quarter, we would have been leading in the third quarter.”
Lowe said he tried to run at Smith in the fourth quarter in an attempt to draw a foul.
“I tried to get some calls, and I thought we should have had some, but we didn’t get them,” he said.
Coach Walters said there was little more Roaring Fork could have done, except for coming out of the box a little faster.
“We struggled coming out of the gate again, and lost that first quarter. But we didn’t give up, and the kids showed a lot of heart,” he said. “I thought we did a real nice job on (Smith) defensively. He just makes his teammates better, and the rest of their guys stepped up and beat us.
Platte Valley coach Dave Mekelburg said he knew his team had to be ready for Roaring Fork.
“They’ve got a lot of weapons, and we knew they were going to play hard,” Mekelburg said. “We knew they had all the momentum there. We needed an offensive answer and we got it.”
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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.