Coal Ridge boys roll into final 16
The Coal Ridge Titans overcame a hot-shooting first quarter by the Frontier Academy Wolverines to post a 77-57 victory Friday night in a regional playoff game at Peach Valley.
The Titans, in front of a loud capacity gathering, fell behind 14-10 at the end of the first quarter of play as Frontier Academy guards Zach Hidalgo and Jordan Morgan came out scorching the nets from behind the three-point arc.
Coal Ridge trailed for most of that initial period after sophomore Payton White got the Titans on the board with a shot in close. Senior Hunter Gerber got a couple of buckets and sophomore Jan Hernandez scored on a layup after a nice drive to the basket to keep Coal Ridge firmly on the heels of the Wolverines from Greeley.
The Titans, who usually play at high speed, found that tempo and embraced it in a second period in which they outscored Frontier Academy 25-15 to grab back the game’s elusive momentum.
“We pulled off the press in that second quarter and just told the kids to play our style of basketball,” Coal Ridge Head Coach Paul Harvey said. “They trusted in our system and started to run.”
And run the Titans did, as sophomore forward Kevin DiMarco hit a three-pointer and a couple of free throws to bring Coal Ridge even with the Wolverines at 17-all. Then DiMarco started to take over in the painted area as he hit a basket and scored on a tip-in. Hernandez got an ear-splitting roar out of the home faithful following an acrobatic score off a drive to the hoop, and Gerber floated one through the net as the Titans headed to the locker room up 35-29.
Coal Ridge junior guard Brandon Herrera made the second half his own personal showcase as he started things off with two three-pointers to put his team up 41-31. A bank shot by DiMarco extended the lead, but the Wolverines’ Hidalgo and Morgan, who would score 25 and 24 points respectively on the night, each hit shots as Frontier Academy pulled to within 45-40.
White scored on a twisting baseline drive and a free throw for Coal Ridge, and junior Dylan Allen scored underneath the basket as the Titans headed for the home stretch of the fourth quarter leading 50-44.
Herrera, who led Coal Ridge in scoring with 23 points, including five three-pointers, would start off the final frame the way he did the half, by connecting from long range as the Titans stretched their leading margin to 53-44.
“Brandon’s a special player. At times, he’s a wizard with the ball,” Harvey said.
Coal Ridge continued to push the pace hard, and when DiMarco scored inside for a 60-49 Coal Ridge lead, Frontier Academy picked up the defense to full-court measures. But the Titans hit on a long pass to Hernandez for a layup and a free throw, considerably dimming the Wolverines hopes of continuing their season.
“We like to play fast and push the tempo,” Harvey said. “The kids enjoy it.”
The Titan student section, on their feet for most of the evening, began to chant “I believe that we will win,” when Herrera hit another three-pointer for a 67-54 lead and the game well in hand.
Coal Ridge, now 18-5 on the season and winners of 12 games in a row, will put its hot streak on the line at 2 this afternoon against the talented Tigers of Sterling, who were 67-47 winners over Buena Vista in the evening’s early matchup. In a winner-take-all game, the victor will advance to the 3A Great Eight to be played at the University of Denver starting next Thursday.
Coach Harvey feels his team is ready for the task at hand.
“We’re excited to face Sterling. We think we can play with anyone in the state,” Harvey said.
Coal Ridge got big winning contributions from a number of players, including Herrera’s game-leading 23-point outburst. Gerber tallied 16 points, with DiMarco dropping in 15 points and Hernandez helping the cause with 11 points.
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