Titans coast past Cedaredge
PEACH VALLEY ” The two Western Slope League games between Coal Ridge and Cedaredge were close, separated by only two points each time.
That was not the case when the two boys basketball teams faced each other on Wednesday night.
The Titans stomped the Bruins, 73-55, in the first round of the Class 3A District 2 Tournament, keeping their season alive and advancing to the tourney’s semifinals.
With the first round win, a feat the Coal Ridge girls also accomplished on Tuesday night, both Titan basketball squads have earned berths into regionals ” becoming the first Coal Ridge teams in school history to qualify for the postseason.
“That’s a big thing for our school and our team,” said Coal Ridge senior Skyler James, who led the Titans with 24 points. “Having that behind us, I think we should do well.”
“It’s a really good feeling. I am really excited for the guys, especially the senior guys,” added Coal Ridge head coach Brian Blair. “I know a loss tonight would have been crushing, instead they are going to go out and celebrate tonight and go into this weekend excited. And we have at least three more games ” that’s a good feeling.”
At first, the game was back-and-forth much like its predecessors. Bo Baker fueled Cedaredge’s charge in the first five minutes, scoring 11 of the Bruins’ first 17 points. However, Coal Ridge still managed to take a 19-17 lead at the end of the first quarter. Then the Titans put a stop to Baker and froze Cedaredge’s offense. The Bruins only scored four points in the second quarter and Baker didn’t get a bucket.
“We knew we had to come out and play our game and we let them play their game in the second quarter,” said Cedaredge head coach Rick Rienks. “We had them running, we had our pace, everything exactly where we wanted it and then they got their game in the second.”
Aided by four Cedaredge turnovers in the last two minutes, Coal Ridge began to break away. A monstrous James slam dunk put an exclamation point on the first half, putting the Titans up 30-21 and bringing the fans to their feet as Coal Ridge went into the locker room.
“That got the crowd into it and that’s always fun to do,” James said.
The Titans’ momentum wasn’t fazed during halftime as they came out after it just as hot as when they left it. The Bruins hung around in the third and even got within six, but Coal Ridge’s strong offensive rebounding gave them enough second chances to take a 49-39 lead into the final frame.
With steals and fast breaks, on-the-spot 3-pointers and a strong inside game from James, Alex Klein and Blake Todd, Coal Ridge continued to increase its lead until the final whistle blew.
“This is actually the best Coal Ridge has played against us,” Rienks said. ” They played smart, they controlled the tempo rather than us controlling the tempo –
because if we control the tempo we are hard to beat. That sprint, fly down the court, get open shots ” that’s how we beat Roaring Fork a couple weeks ago.”
In the final four minutes, Coal Ridge ran an effective stall offense, eating time off the clock and still scoring points. The Titans also hit seven of 10 fourth-quarter free throws when the Bruins started to foul.
“We made smart decisions at the end, we made them play defense more than we have before,” Blair said.
Along with his 24 points, James finished with seven rebounds and four assists in the game. Andy Smedra scored 11 points and recorded nine assists, while Klein, Eric Schmitz and Braxton Jackson each scored 10. Baker led the Bruins (5-14) with 21 points, but couldn’t get into the game much in the second half thanks to Schmitz’s tough defense.
Coal Ridge (13-7) will now advance to Friday’s semifinals at 8 p.m. at Palisade High School, where it will meet up with Aspen, which crushed Hotchkiss 90-29 on Wednesday. The Skiers (18-2) are the No. 1 seed and the regular season WSL Champions after going 14-0 in league this year.
Despite their success, Blair says his team isn’t intimidated of top-seeded Aspen.
“I think that we feel we haven’t really shown what we are capable the last two games,” he said. “They have taken it to us. … I think we will go out on Friday and give them a challenge. They have a good team and a loss to them is nothing to be ashamed of, but I want to give them a game and be in it at the end.”
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
The Coal Ridge High boys suffered their first 3A Western Slope League loss of the year Thursday night on the road at Gunnison, falling to the defending league champion Cowboys 65-45.