Coal Ridge boys hoops holds off Wolverines in upset bid at home
It wasn’t pretty, but in the end the No. 3 Coal Ridge Titans’ boys basketball team did just enough Friday night to hold off the No. 30 Frontier Academy Wolverines, 52-48, to advance to the regional championship game today against the No. 14 Manual Thunderbolts.
Coal Ridge trailed 29-25 at the half and 37-36 after three quarters of play before veteran leadership stepped up down the stretch in the fourth quarter to keep the Titans’ playoff hopes alive in front of a jam-packed gymnasium in New Castle.
Two huge free throws from senior point guard Brandon Herrera and a key steal with 11.2 seconds left by junior guard Jan Hernandez helped the Titans rally from a 6-point first-half deficit to pick up the big four-point win at home.
“We played tight tonight,” Coal Ridge Head Coach Paul Harvey said following the win. “We weren’t loose at all, and we didn’t play disciplined. We took the first shot that was coming to us, and they [Frontier Academy] had a great game plan and sat in the zone. We obliged them and forced jumper after jumper, even though we had a size advantage … I asked the kids if they checked the calendar, because it’s March; anything can happen. Hopefully tonight we got the monkey off our back with the win.”
The Titans and Wolverines came out fast in the first quarter as the two teams combined for three 3-pointers in the first eight minutes of the game. Coal Ridge took an early 4-0 lead off of a driving layup from Herrera and a steal and layup from junior Payton White, forcing a quick Frontier Academy timeout.
Coming out of the break, Frontier Academy junior guard Robert Noffsinger drilled a 3-pointer to make it a 4-3 game. But White answered back with another layup before junior forward Lukas Bowles split a pair of free throws to keep the Wolverines within one point.
A 3-pointer from Hernandez made it a 9-5 game, but the Wolverines stayed hot from the floor as senior Zach Hidalgo hit a jumper and senior Hollis Fitzgerald hit a 3-pointer and a mid-range jumper to give the Wolverines a 12-11 lead after one quarter of play.
Things continued to go the Wolverines’ way in the second quarter, despite two quick buckets from Herrera and a free throw from junior center Kevin DiMarco which gave the Titans a 16-15 lead early in the quarter. From there, a layup from Frontier Academy junior center James Pike and a 3-pointer from junior Jesse Hayward gave the Wolverines a 20-16 lead. White and junior Collin Channell traded 3-pointers as the Wolverines stayed on top, 23-21, before two quick threes from Hidalgo right before the half sent the Wolverines into the break with a big 29-25 lead over the Titans on the road.
Making some adjustments at the half, including getting the ball down low to DiMarco and senior Connor Detlefsen, the Titans bounced back quickly to start the second half, going on a quick 7-0 run to open the third quarter. DiMarco and Detlefsen hit tough shots in the paint, and Herrera hit his first 3-pointer of the game, giving the Titans a 32-29 lead, forcing a Wolverines timeout.
Following Herrera’s three and the timeout, the third quarter turned into a 3-point shooting contest as Channell drilled a 3-pointer for Frontier Academy, before Herrera answered back with another three of his own, pushing the Titans’ lead to 35-32. A 3-pointer from Bowles tied the game up at 35-35, before the Titans took a slim 36-35 lead late in the quarter off of a free throw from Herrera.
Frontier Academy refused to back down, though, as Hidalgo hit a tough layup along the baseline just before the third quarter buzzer, giving the Wolverines a 37-36 lead with one quarter left in the books.
In the fourth, the Titans made their move, as Hernandez started the quarter with a runner in the lane, while DiMarco split a pair of free throws to give the Titans a 39-37 lead.
Frontier Academy answered back with a layup from Pike, but DiMarco and Detlefsen scored two quick buckets at the other end for the Titans, pushing Coal Ridge’s lead to 43-39.
The Wolverines battled back to within one at 43-42 as Hidalgo hit a pair of free throws and Bowles split his pair at the line. Nursing a one-point lead, DiMarco hit a tough putback shot in the lane off of a missed free throw from Detlefsen. Hidalgo then drilled two more free throws at the other end to make it a one-point game once again.
Needing a big bucket, Herrera found a cutting Detlefsen on the left block for a key layup, but the Titans couldn’t get another stop on defense as Pike split the lane and banked home a runner to make it a 47-46 game.
Holding a one-point lead late, the Titans began their usual trip to the free throw line, as White and Hernandez both split a pair of free throws to give Coal Ridge a 49-46 lead. Hidalgo came up clutch again for the Wolverines, hitting both of his free throws to make it a one-point game once again.
That’s when Herrera and Hernandez went to work. Drawing a foul 85 feet from the basket, Herrera calmly sank both of his free throws to give the Titans a 51-48 lead. On the ensuing inbounds play, Hernandez stepped in front of an errant pass from the Frontier Academy inbounder, recording a huge steal to draw the intentional foul.
“I saw the inbounder kind of falling forward, so I knew he was either going to fall forward and get called for a violation, or he’d have to pass it,” Hernandez said post-game. “I reacted and came up with the ball. Once I knew I had secured the ball, I knew the game was ours.”
Hernandez then went to the line and split a pair of free throws, capping off the 52-48 win for the Titans.
In the win, Herrera led the way with 17 points, while DiMarco added 14 for the Titans, who saw just five players score on the night. White added 8 points, while Hernandez and Detlefsen added 7 and 6 points, respectively.
Hidalgo led the Wolverines with 17 points, while Bowles added 8 points.
Coal Ridge will match up with Manual this afternoon at 1 p.m. The Thunderbolts beat No. 19 Pagosa Springs on Friday evening, 75-61.
“We have to play loose, and play for each other,” Harvey said. “We have to get back to what we do in practice, and what we’ve been doing for years.”
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