Titans dispatch Cowboys, win 3A WSL title
Hosting the Gunnison Cowboys Saturday afternoon at Coal Ridge High School in New Castle, the Coal Ridge boys basketball team just needed to take care of business on the floor to claim its second straight 3A Western Slope League regular season title with a dominating 75-41 win over the Cowboys on Senior Night.
“This feels pretty sweet,” Coal Ridge Head Coach Paul Harvey said. “It feels great to do this, but it wasn’t really expected because Basalt is a great team. It was unlikely for us, but what this does is, and I told the boys this, it gets you a t-shirt and some pizzas. We want some hardware though, so we are focused on districts and hopefully hosting a state playoff game in the next few weeks.”
Early on things were a bit nerve-racking for fans in attendance looking to see the Titans win the league title on home floor as the Cowboys kept with the Titans in the first quarter despite a terrific start to the game for Coal Ridge senior standout Hunter Gerber.
The slashing forward attacked the rim repeatedly, getting some tough shots to fall in the paint to lead the Titans to an early 8-2 lead, but the Cowboys would respond with some big offensive rebounds and putbacks from senior forward Lane Mangum to pull to within 9-8. But from there the Titans would go on a 6-1 run to close the quarter as junior guard Jan Hernandez hit a tough layup in the lane before junior guard Brandon Herrera splashed home a three-pointer to give the Titans a 15-9 lead after one quarter of play.
The run to close the first quarter was a sign of things to come for the Titans in the second quarter as some great defense led to easy offense for the Titans, who went on a 24-0 run to close the first half of play as sophomore forward Kevin DiMarco started the run with a layup in traffic before Gerber came right back with a steal and a layup. Herrera would then go on a mini 6-0 run himself as e split a pair of free throws before getting a layup and a three-pointer to fall.
Layups from Gerber and Hernandez would close the scoring in the half with the Titans running away from the Cowboys for a 40-13 lead at the half.
“It starts with defense for us,” Harvey said. “Guys pressured and got tips, which led to us getting our transition game going. Up to that point the game was slow-paced and half court, and sometimes our guys struggle with that. They like to get out in transition and play our style of basketball, so the pressure defense got our offense going.
With the lead well in hand, the Titans came out loose in the second half and really ran away with it, leading to a very special moment in the fourth quarter with the Titans holding a 30-point lead.
Harvey left Gerber and fellow senior Martin Camunez on the floor while sending in freshman guard Austin Gerber and sophomore guard Jesus Camunez to share the same floor with their older brothers in varsity action.
Both Austin and Jesus would knock down three-pointers in the quarter, albeit with their brothers on the bench, but just getting a chance to see two sets of brothers on the floor at the same time on Senior Night in a big win was very moving for those in the crowd.
“We preach family around this program,” Harvey said. “We are a family because of how close we are and because of the families involved like Coach Gerber, Coach Herrera, Coach Arreola and things like that. I just thought I would love to get a chance to play these guys with their brothers, so I dressed them on the roster tonight. I put them in there with a chance to play and they hit some shots for us. That’s something that doesn’t get the chance to come around often, getting the chance to play with your brother on the court in varsity game. Hopefully we can do it next year with the Herrera’s and the DiMarco’s and keep this going.”
With the win, Coal Ridge finishes the regular season 14-5, 8-1 3A WSL overall. Although technically tied in the league standings with Basalt based on record, the Titans own the head-to-head tiebreaker thanks to a 58-52 win over the Longhorns back on Feb. 7.
The Titans will host a game Tuesday evening in the first round of the district tournament.
GUNNISON 45, COAL RIDGE 40
Despite holding a 25-16 lead at halftime, the Coal Ridge Titans girls basketball team couldn’t close out the regular season finale against the Gunnison Cowboys on a high note, allowing the Cowboys to rally from the nine-point deficit to pick up a 45-40 win.
Celebrating Senior Night prior to the game, the Titans came out fired up, playing one of their best quarters of the season as they held a 14-4 lead after one quarter of play thanks to two big buckets from senior forward Kaitlyn Harlow and two tough layups from junior guard Santana Martinez.
Looking to keep up the scoring prowess in the second quarter, Harlow again hit two big shots, while sophomore guard Kashley Morgan also got two tough shots to fall in transition to give the Titans a 25-16 lead at the half, but that would be it for the Titans, who would come out flat offensively in the second half, allowing the Cowboys to rally.
The Titans would score just six points in the third quarter and then just nine points in the fourth quarter while the Cowboys, led by sophomore forward Maddie Nelson, would explode for 29 second-half points — most of which came off of putbacks and free throws — to pull off the second-half comeback in dramatic fashion.
Harlow would finish with 10 points for the Titans, while Morgan and Martinez would add six and five points respectively. Senior guard Natalie Dougherty would add four points in her final game as a Titan.
With the loss, Coal Ridge wraps up the regular season with a record of 3-15, 1-8 3A WSL. The Titans will travel to Basalt this week for a chance to earn a berth in the district tournament with a win in the play-in game.
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