Titans steal spot in state tourney
PEACH VALLEY — Jake Solinger has been asking Coal Ridge High boys basketball coach Paul Harvey all year about the team record for most steals in a game. And although he didn’t get close to that against the Gunnison Cowboys on Tuesday, his one steal in the final minute sealed a trip to the Class 3A state tournament for the Titans.
The last of Solinger’s six steals helped hold off a Gunnison rally, and a 20-point performance from sophomore Hunter Gerber also helped lift Coal Ridge to a 61-56 victory during the first round of the 3A Western Slope League Tournament in the Coal Ridge High gymnasium.
“Thirteen is the record,” said Solinger, who also added nine points in the Coal Ridge win. “I’ve had as many as eight this season, and I had six today.”
And the one that really counted?
“Yes sir,” he replied.
The victory for Coal Ridge (10-10 overall), the No. 4 seed in the league tournament, clinched one of the four automatic berths in next week’s state tournament and the Titans’ second straight trip to the state bracket. And with the victory, Coal Ridge will move on to play top-seeded Moffat County (16-4), a 75-38 winner over winless Olathe in another league-tournament game on Tuesday. Game time is slated for 8:30 p.m. Friday at Grand Junction Central High School.
“We can’t relax now that we’re in [the state tournament],” Gerber said. “We can’t go into this game ready to play like it doesn’t count, because it counts for a lot.”
Freshman Brenden Herrera added 14 points for Coal Ridge, which never led by double figured but never relinquished the lead until the final minutes of the game, when the Cowboys (7-13 overall) were on the verge of seizing the momentum for good. Gunnison got 17 points from Brevin Book and 12 from Trey Percival, the Cowboys’ post players who gave the Titans fits in the paint all night.
It was Gunnison’s outside shooting in the third quarter, however, that kept them in it. The Cowboys hit each of their three 3-pointers in the third, with a trey from Michael Howard, followed by a buzzer-beating jumper from Kody Platt, pulling Gunnison within 43-41 at the end of the stanza.
In the fourth, a jumper from Dan Schouten put Coal Ridge up 54-50 with 2:36 remaining, but a jumper from Dylan Miller with 1:05 on the clock gave the Cowboys their first lead at 55-54. That, however, is when Solinger stole the momentum, driving the right baseline for a transition layup and converting the three-point play after a Gunnison foul with 56.2 seconds on the clock.
Gunnison turned the ball over on its next possession. Gerber hit 1-of-2 foul shots to put Coal Ridge up 58-55 with 40.6 on the clock and, on the Cowboys’ next possession, Solinger stole the ball from a Gunnison player and, with 21.3 remaining, sank 1-of-2 foul shots to make it a two-possession game at 59-55.
Greyson Keener and Michael Solis each added six points for Coal Ridge. Howard added seven points for the Cowboys, whose season ended with the loss.
GIRLS: COAL RIDGE 51, GUNNISON 29
PEACH VALLEY — Junior post player Kaitlyn Detlefsen finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds to go with a 12-point performance from Jenny Call, and Coal Ridge (10-10) beat Gunnison to reserve one of the the league’s four 3A state tournament spots.
“You wouldn’t have thought it was going to turn out this way at the beginning of the season,” said Coal Ridge senior Mariela Martinez, who along with fellow senior Kyrie’ Foreman was one of the contributors on last year’s team that missed the state tournament. “But we’re glad it did, and we’re very grateful for the chance to go to state this season.”
Call, a junior guard, scored all of her points on four first-half 3-pointers. Her final 3 of the night, followed by a layup from Detlefsen with 1:33 remaining before halftime, staked the Titan to a 27-7 lead at the break.
Gunnison (5-15 overall) got a team-high eight points from Alex Lovato and four points each from Jarren Howard and Shay Pervival.
The Titans will move to the semifinal round of the league tournament against Olathe, a 66-16 winner over eighth-seeded Aspen in another tournament game on Tuesday. Game time is 7 p.m. Friday.
“We know we can do better and play better than we did tonight,” Foreman said. “That’s what we’re hoping to do on Friday.”
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