Grizzlies returning to final four

Posted 3/9/09

Scott Kaniewski Troy Noser took care of the first half. Dave Arnold took care of the second half. A fantastic finish and great come-from-behind win …

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Grizzlies returning to final four


Scott Kaniewski

Troy Noser took care of the first half. Dave Arnold took care of the second half.

A fantastic finish and great come-from-behind win over No. 1 Eaglecrest has the Grizzlies headed to the final four for the fourth time in six seasons.

Noser went 5-for-5 from 3-point land in the first half, and Arnold scored a game-high 27 points, including a pair of free throws with 2 seconds to play, to lead No. 3 ThunderRidge to a 57-56 victory over Eaglecrest at the Denver Coliseum on March 7 in the Class 5A Great 8 round of the state basketball tournament.

“We were mixing it up, playing man and zone, threw them off a little bit,” Noser said. “Team defense.”

In their previous three trips to the final four the Grizzlies reached the title game. Each time they’ve come up short, including last season when the Grizzlies had a chance to tie and send the game into overtime, but Arnold’s 3-point attempt fell short at the buzzer.

Arnold didn’t let that happen with a chance to go to the final four on the line. With ThunderRidge trailing 56-55, Eaglecrest had possession with 1:10 to play. The Raptors ran the clock down to 35 seconds and called timeout. Then Noser, who was instrumental in keeping the Grizzlies in the game in the first half, knocked the ball loose from Eaglecrest’s Josh Turner. A tie-up for the loose ball gave possession to the Grizzlies with 26 seconds remaining.

ThunderRidge put the ball in Arnold’s hands. But the Grizzlies’ most sure-handed player lost it on his drive, and Eaglecrest’s Gage Wooten grabbed the ball before being fouled. With 8 seconds remaining, Wooten needed to hit both free throws for a three-point lead. Instead, Wooten, who finished tied with a team-high 15 points, missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Arnold grabbed the rebound and raced down court. Trying to drive the lane, Arnold was fouled, putting him at the line because the Grizzlies were in the double bonus.

With 2 seconds on the clock, Arnold sunk both free throws. Eaglecrest guard Arden Dennis got a good look, but his game-ending shot clanged off the front of the rim, sending the Grizzlies’ bench racing to the court to celebrate the final-four berth.

“Yeah, and I was [upset],” Arnold said about the two previous free-throw attempts he missed. “But I knew I was going to make [the last two].”

The Grizzlies guard was sensational in the second half. He made 9-of-11 shots in the second half [81.8 percent] and scored the Grizzlies’ last nine points.

“He’s been unguardable,” ThunderRidge coach Joe Ortiz said. “He willed that thing to go in at the end.”

Early on, Arnold couldn’t find his range. So he and his teammates found someone who could: Noser. With Eaglecrest running a trap defense, Noser kept getting open, and his teammates kept feeding him the ball. When they got it to him, he found the bottom of the net.

“I just felt it,” Noser said. “My boys were getting me the ball.”

Ortiz admitted he didn’t think his team was final-four material when the season began.

“We looked at this team and said what do we have to do today?” Ortiz said. “We always have expectations, but no, absolutely not.”

ThunderRidge [18-8] faces No. 1 Regis [24-2] at the CU Events Center in Boulder on Mar. 12 at 7 p.m. Regis defeated two-time defending champ Denver East to reach the final four.

The Grizzlies are two victories away from a title. After the win over Eaglecrest, Noser likes their chances.

“We’ll win,” Noser said. “We’ll win it.”


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