Golden Eagles, Grizzlies fall in Final Four

Boys teams from Highlands Ranch come up a game short of title contest


Mountain Vista lost its shooting touch and ThunderRidge lost the handle on the ball too many times as both boys basketball teams lost semifinal games in the Class 5A state tournament on March 8 at the Denver Coliseum.

Mountain Vista never managed to find any shooting effectiveness in a 62-51 setback to eventual state champion Rangeview.

Top-seeded Chaparral, who had beaten ThunderRidge twice during the regular season, made it three in a row as the Wolverines used a big second half run to rally for a 58-46 semifinal victory over the Grizzlies.

Mountain Vista shot just 30.6 percent from the floor for the game, and that shooting figure was bolstered during the final four minutes, when the Golden Eagles managed five field goals.

Vista, which trailed by 16 points early in the fourth quarter, was 4-for-24 from 3-point range and Rangeview held a dominating 49-33 rebounding advantage.

Vista did trim the Rangeview lead to five points with 1:48 remaining in the game but the Raiders hit four free throws to hold off the Golden Eagles in the final minute.

Mountain Vista, second seeded in the tournament, ended the season with a 24-3 record.

“We didn't shoot well,” said Vista coach Bob Wood. “We had four 3-pointers — if we make eight, then it would have been a whole different game. It was a good season. A lot of firsts.”

Vista won the early-season Visa/Rock Canyon tournament for the first time and also beat all Highlands Ranch schools during the regular season, another first.

Senior Ben Grusing, Vista's leading scorer for the season with a 15.9 average, was the team's top scorer against Rangeview with 16 points. Senior Simon May was the Golden Eagles' player of the game with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

ThunderRidge had a 35-25 lead with 3:19 to play in the third quarter, when Chaparral's second-half defensive intensity finally paid dividends.

Chaparral outscored the Grizzlies 20-0 over the next six minutes to take a 45-35 lead with 5:42 left in the game. ThunderRidge turned the ball over nine times during the Wolverines' run.

ThunderRidge has played all season with a shortage of guards and the Grizzlies were hurt when Austin Holt left the game early in the third quarter with an ankle injury. He didn't return.

ThunderRidge wound up committing 30 turnovers in the game and Chaparral scored 29 points off the turnovers.

“Yeah, we turned it over too much, they got it cranked up and the momentum went their way,” said ThunderRidge coach Joe Ortiz. “Austin was hurt and that really hurt us. Garrett (guard Garrett Arnold) was worn down. We're pretty thin at the guards anyway. That was hard to overcome, plus their pressure was phenomenal.”

Holt, a 6-foot-5 senior, was the team's leading scorer for the season with a 12.1 scoring average and senior Kevin Sax finished with a team high 6.5 rebounding average for the Grizzlies, who posted a final record of 21-6.

“It was a great year,” Ortiz said. “This team wouldn't allow us to drop down to another level. We've been at the Final Four, state runner-up level for four or five years, number one seed and we graduated a lot but they refused to let us slip. I'm proud of the way they competed.”


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