Titan boys hang on to beat Buena Vista, 44-42, to open 3A playoffs | PostIndependent.com

Titan boys hang on to beat Buena Vista, 44-42, to open 3A playoffs

Mike Vidakovich
Special to the Post Independent
Buena Vista’s Tucker Storms dribbles near the top of the key against the stingy Coal Ridge defense Tuesday night. The Titans won their first-round 3A playoff game 44-42. Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

With seconds ticking down to a precious few in Tuesday night’s 3A state playoff game at Coal Ridge High School and the Titans nursing a narrow 44-42 advantage, Buena Vista junior guard Tucker Storms drove to the basket for what could have sent an already tense affair into overtime.

It was a game that neither team was willing to concede without a fight.

His path to the hoop blocked by several Titans, Storms’ contested shot narrowly missed the intended target, and Coal Ridge managed to hang on for the win in a game that saw more bodies crashing to the floor than balls dropping through the hoop.

“We were able to win some ugly games early in the season,” said Coal Ridge head coach Paul Harvey. “That lesson came in handy for us tonight because we have been through physical games before.”

Buena Vista, coached by Scott Crites, came into Tuesday’s game with an 8-3 overall record and a fifth-place finish in the 3A Tri-Peaks League. The Demons played a tight man-to-man defense and a deliberate offensive pace from the game’s onset that disrupted the usual high-octane Coal Ridge attack.

Senior guard Andrew Herrera put the Titans on his back early in the contest, dropping in 9 first quarter points, allowing Coal Ridge to take a scant 13-11 lead after the first 8 minutes of play.

Buena Vista would never let the Titans get comfortable, though.

Senior forward Dominic St. John, who would end up with a game-high 13 points, hit consistently from beyond the 3-point arc to keep the Demons right on the Titans’ heels. Senior guard Moises Contreras hit a 3-pointer for Coal Ridge just prior to intermission to give his team a 22-18 lead.

Coach Harvey’s halftime talk must have been a good one, because the home team came out of the locker room on fire, scoring the first six points of the second half to take a 28-18 lead. It would end up being the game’s largest lead by either team.

Senior Hank DiMarco fueled the Coal Ridge run with scores on a backdoor layup and a nice drop step post move as the Titans looked to run away and hide.

Following a timeout by Crites, the Demons countered with six straight points of their own as St. John, Connor Scott and Storms each notched scores on tough drives to the basket.

The final tense stanza opened up with Titan junior guard Eddie Salazar swishing a long 3-pointer from the top of the circle to give Coal Ridge a 34-26 lead. But when St. John followed suit from beyond the arc, the edge-of-the-seat race to the finish line was on.

The Demons finally made their comeback complete by tying the score at 40, but Herrera scored on a breakaway layup and senior guard Karsen DuBois hit a deft flip shot from just inside the lane to preserve the Titan’s slight lead.

Scott hit a basket in the paint following another Buena Vista timeout, but the final shot of the game by Storms was not to be.

Coal Ridge (12-3 overall) will now move on to the 3A round of 16 where they will take on another team from the Tri-Peaks League on the road. The highly regarded Manitou Springs Mustangs await Harvey and his charges, but it’s a challenge that the veteran Titans coach says his team is up for.

“We’re going to have to play really well on the defensive end, move the ball around on offense and hit some timely shots. We’re glad to be playing,” Harvey said.

Contreras led the balanced Coal Ridge scoring ledger with 12 points, Herrera tallied 11 points, DiMarco dropped in 9 points and Salazar contributed 7 points.

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