Resurrection Christian’s hot shooting knocks off Coal Ridge in regional title game
Resurrection Christian seems to love playing in Coal Ridge’s gymnasium.
The No. 11 Cougars seemingly couldn’t miss a shot for a 6-minute stretch in the second quarter, while the No. 6 Titans couldn’t buy a bucket at home, allowing Resurrection Christian to outscore Coal Ridge 27-4 in the second quarter, building off of a 25-13 lead after one quarter of play on the way to a 77-53 win in the regional championship game Saturday in New Castle.
“They hit some shots, and kept hitting some shots, and then hit some more shots,” said Paul Harvey, Coal Ridge’s head coach following the loss. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team shoot the ball that well for a stretch like that. Our kids were in the right positon and we contested; there was one or two situations where they had open looks, but that team just shot the ball so well. Congrats to Resurrection; we got blitzed by an offensive juggernaut.”
Early on it looked like a game that would live up to the billing between two powerhouse programs from different sides of the state as Coal Ridge jumped out to an early 6-2 lead, thanks to a pair of 3-pointers from seniors Payton White and Kevyn Flores. Resurrection Christian senior Sparky Morris dialed up a 3-pointer of his own to keep the Cougars close in the early stages.
Coal Ridge later took a 9-7 lead thanks to a free throw from senior Kevin DiMarco and a putback off a missed free throw by White.
The Cougars came alive from there though, going on an 18-4 run to close the first quarter as junior Jackson Romero hit a 3-pointer and converted a traditional 3-point play in the paint, while junior Jude Howell and sophomore Zach Cook hit a pair of buckets in the paint, giving the Cougars a 25-13 lead after one quarter of play.
After finding their footing in the middle of the first quarter, the Cougars stayed red-hot in the second quarter as Morris and junior Reece Johnson hit back-to-back 3-pointers to open the quarter, stretching the lad to 33-13.
A 3-point play by Cook made it 36-13 before DiMarco went to work on the low block, spinning past a Resurrection Christian defender for a layup to make it 36-15.
The Cougars went right back to work though as Romero hit a jumper and Johnson converted a 3-point play before freshman Drew Bobo hit a jumper and Howell connected on a 3-pointer to make it 47-15.
DiMarco was then called for a technical foul for touching the ball while hanging on the rim after a dunk attempt, leading to a technical foul free throw from Romero that made it 48-15. The junior guard then added a 3-pointer thanks to possession that made it 51-15, silencing the home crowd.
A layup from Coal Ridge sophomore guard Brandon Herrera stopped the Cougar run, but a jumper by Romero near the end of the half sent the two teams into the break with the visiting Cougars holding a commanding 53-17 lead over the stunned Titans.
At the half, Harvey challenged the Titans to play with pride and play with passion like it was the last game of their careers, which is was for 6 of them.
“I always make them clap no matter what at the end of the half, and that’s because they have courage,” said Harvey. “We had to go out and show some courage and fight in the second half and leave it all out there. I told them we had to be aggressive on defense and take some chances, and then on offense we needed to attack the hoop.”
The Titans answered the bell for the second half, coming out with vengance on the mind.
Morris started the half with a 3-pointer that seemed to get the Cougars going again on the offensive end, but DiMarco, White, and senior Aaron Arreola came out swinging for the Titans.
DiMarco hit an early layup, while White converted a 3-point play in the paint to spark a rally. DiMarco then stepped outside for a 3-pointer before Arreola drilled a 3-pointer from the wing, igniting the home crowd as they tried to will the Titans back.
Morris and Romero couldn’t miss from deep though for the Cougars, as the duo hit a pair of 3-pointers, keeping the Titans at bay heading into the fourth quarter with a 71-34 lead.
With just 8 minutes left in the season, the Titans scratched and clawed to get back into the game, riding the backs of Arreola, DiMarco and White.
Arreola opened the fourth quarter with a layup in transition, sparking a 19-0 run by the Titans as Flores hit a layup and a putback, DiMarco converted a 3-point play, senior Jeremy Funes hit a jumper from the left corner, and sophomore Hank DiMarco hit a driving layup through contact.
“I’m really proud of the way the guys fought today,” said Harvey. “They put it to us a bit today, but our guys showed some fight and heart in the second half to try and climb back into the game.”
But the rally was too little, too late for the Titan boys as Harvey subbed out his seniors with just under 3 minutes to go, marking the end of a terrific career at Coal Ridge.
In the loss, White and DiMarco led the Titans with 14 points each, while Arreola and Flores added 7 points each. Morris and Romero led the Cougars with 18 and 17 points, respectively.
In 4 years with the program, DiMarco, Arreola, Jesus Camunez, Funes, White, and Flores helped the Titans win 74 games, 3 regional tournament host bids, 2 district championships, and 3 3A Western Slope League regular season championships, helping put the Coal Ridge basketball program on the map. But for the third year in a row, the Titans bowed out of the regional playoffs in the championship game on their home floor.
“I didn’t focus on that,” said Harvey. “What I did focus on was saying thank you to those seniors. They’ve done so much for this program, and they’ve raised the expectation level for Coal Ridge basketball. I jus flat-out said thank you.”
The loss closes a season in which Coal Ridge finishes with a 19-5 (6-3 3A Western Slope League) record. All-Conference accolades will be announced once the 3A basketball season is over.