Titans squeeze out win over Bulldogs
It wasn’t pretty at times, but the Coal Ridge Titans’ boys basketball team turned it on when it needed to Tuesday night against the visiting Palisade Bulldogs in a makeup game from the Bulldog Invitational, using runs of 9-0 and 6-0 in the third quarter to stretch a four-point halftime lead into an eventual nine-point win at home in nonconference action.
After racing out to a 33-17 lead midway through the second quarter, the Titans seemed to take their foot off the gas late in the half, allowing the Bulldogs to close on a 12-0 run to head into the locker room trailing 33-29, forcing the Titans to regroup in the locker room.
They did just that, coming out strong in the third quarter as the Titans went on a 9-0 run thanks to junior center Kevin DiMarco and junior forward Payton White converting and-1 plays at the rim, before then going on a 6-0 run thanks to runners in the lane from senior guard Brandon Herrera and a layup from senior center Connor Detlefsen, giving Coal Ridge enough breathing room in the battle against the Bulldogs. In the third quarter, the Titans pushed their lead to as high as 15 points, but much like the end of the first half, Coal Ridge allowed the Bulldogs to battle back.
“They’re still kids,” Coal Ridge Head Coach Paul Harvey said. “I think they were scoring baskets so easy in the first half until Palisade switched their defense to a 1-2-2, and it caught us off guard, which caused them to lose their edge mentally. When you get up big, things like that can happen, and maybe I rotated too many guys in and out to disrupt the flow of the game there in the first half. We lost that edge mentally, but then we built it up in the third quarter, but turned around and lost it again in the fourth.
“We were sloppy with the ball and gambled a bit too much defensively.”
Fortunately for the Titans, the talent on the roster prevailed in big spots to account for some sloppiness as a team.
Defense was an issue in the first quarter for the Titans as the Bulldogs poured in 13 points to keep pace with Coal Ridge’s 16, as Palisade senior guard Sebastian Campbell hit a 3-pointer and a mid-range jumper off of a loose ball, but DiMarco came out red-hot for the Titans, scoring eight points in the first eight minutes, while Herrera hit a tough runner in the lane, and junior Daniel Lopez stole the ball in the full-court press and banked home a shot to give the Titans the lead after one quarter of play.
Finally settling into the game at both ends of the floor, the speed and length of the Titans took over early in the second quarter as White and DiMarco keyed a 9-0 run as White skied for a rebound off of a missed free throw from junior guard Jan Hernandez, corralled the offensive rebound and got the putback shot to fall, while DiMarco stepped outside the arc and drilled a 3-pointer before then capping off a beautiful pick-and-roll with senior guard Jake Whitaker, laying in the ball high off of a great feed from Whitaker to give the Titans a 27-15 lead.
A layup from Herrera later in the quarter gave Coal Ridge its largest lead of the game at 16 points, but from there the Bulldogs rallied as sophomore guard Kevin Loya hit a pair of free throws and a layup in transition, while junior Zane Haas hit two free throws before Campbell splashed home a jumper at the buzzer to send the two teams into the locker room.
Looking to shake off the frustrating close to the first half, Coal Ridge came out and quickly went to work against the Bulldogs as White started the half with a twisting layup before then coming back on the next possession to hit a layup through contact, sinking the ensuing free throw. It was DiMarco’s turn after White as the big, skilled center converted two straight 3-point plays to jump-start the Titans.
Loya and Coal Ridge senior guard Juan Vasquez traded 3-pointers right before the end of the third quarter as Coal Ridge comfortably in front, 53-39, heading into the final quarter of play.
Palisade didn’t go quietly though, taking advantage of some Titan turnovers and missed shots in close to pull to within 11 points at 59-48 off of a jumper from Haas and two free throws from sophomore forward Watts Erb. Coal Ridge pulled away again briefly as White converted a 3-point play again, while Herrera hit a layup and DiMarco soared in from the right block for a two-handed dunk to make it 66-53 Titans.
The Bulldogs then closed the game on a 6-1 run as the Titans emptied the bench to cap off the 69-60 win.
“We needed to execute better; we missed some shots in close that we normally make,” Harvey said. “I told the guys at the half that we needed to live and die with every possession and keep that mental edge. I was very disappointed with the bench there at the end of the game when I put them in. They threw the ball away, shoot an air ball, give up a couple of buckets; just little things like that. It just showed we’re not mentally in tune.
“We have the physical tools, but we need to get the mentality in tune. Teams are gunning for us, so we have to come ready to play, because nothing will be handed to us.”
In the win, DiMarco led the Titans with 23 points, while Herrera added 16 points. White added 8 points for Coal Ridge.
Loya led the Bulldogs with 15 points, while Erb chipped in with 12 points.