Mountain Vista boys face Eaglecrest in Final Four

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DENVER — Mountain Vista boys basketball coach Bob Wood knew his team would be in trouble if the game lasted any longer.

Graham Smith was tired but his layup helped to end a long night for the Golden Eagles.

Mountain Vista posted an emotionally draining 78-76 double-overtime Class 5A quarterfinal state playoff victory over Cherokee Trail on March 8 at the Denver Coliseum.

The Golden Eagles (23-2) advanced to the Final Four for the first time in school history and will face Eaglecrest (21-5) in an 8:30 p.m. semifinal game March 15 at the Coors Events Center in Boulder.

Mountain Vista had a chance to win at the end of regulation against Cherokee Trail and at the conclusion of the first overtime, but the third time was a charm for the Golden Eagles.

Fairview was ahead 76-75 when Mountain Vista employed a slip-screen play to grab the lead. Smith, off a pass from Amir Qadri, made a layup with 14.2 seconds on the clock to give Mountain Vista a one-point advantage.

“It was the same play we ran the other night,” Smith said. “I was expecting the pass. I shot it a little early but he came at me so quick that I figured I might as well shoot it.

“I got hit really hard so I'm just glad it went in. I was tired but the adrenaline just makes you keep going.”

Mountain Vista coach Bob Wood told his players not to hesitate.

“I said, this is it, we're going to win it now,” he said. “We decided to do it right away because if we missed it, we're still behind and the only chance we would have is to foul and hope they miss some free throws. We went early to take the lead.

“That was a big play and a nice play from a kid off our bench. He's a soccer player and has really good basketball skills. He is a guy that finishes plays well. It wasn't like it was an easy basket, we didn't get a breakaway layup.”

After Smith's basket, Fairview's Tyler Larkin had an apparent basket wiped out by a traveling call and Mountain Vista's Damani Repress sank one of two free throws with 2.7 seconds showing to give the Golden Eagles a 78-76 lead.

Cherokee Trail's Drick Bernstine grabbed the rebound after Repress' missed free throw and threw the ball toward the basket at the other end. His desperation shot was on line but fell just short.

“I watched that last shot, I was so scared,” Wood said. “If that would have went in, I would've said it must not have been meant to be. We've done everything we can.

“Thank God we won in that overtime because I don't think we could have survived another one. We hung in there good because we were in such bad foul trouble.”

Smith, Jake Pemberton and Elijah Valdez each had four fouls and Mitch Carter and Chandler Wiscombe had fouled out of the game.

Pemberton and Valdez each had 19 points to share game-scoring honors in the game that saw 25 lead changes in the second half.

“These kids have done a great job,” Wood said. “They don't give up. They always play until the end and they always think we're going to win.

“We've gotten better. Two years ago we were in the (Sweet) 16, last year we were in the (Great) Eight and now we're in the Final Four. Eaglecrest is every bit as good as Fairview. Who cares? We'll play whoever is there and I'm sure they would too.”