Times Staff Writer
GHS Boys Basketball — It was a hard-fought and close battle for the Gunnison High School (GHS) boys basketball team in the final two games of the 3A Western Slope League (WSL) tournament.
Unfortunately, the ball didn’t bounce the Cowboys’ way. GHS suffered a 35-33 overtime loss to Roaring Fork in the semifinals and was defeated 41-40 by Coal Ridge in the third-place game.
“After those two losses, our team mindset is that teams aren’t going to have respect for us, because we’re ranked 20th in state but we’re the underdogs going into this tournament and we’re hungry,” said Pascual Lerma of the state tourney.
GHS nearly defeated the Coal Ridge Titans on Saturday — losing in the final seconds of the game — after a late three-pointer by Hunter Wood and reverse layup by Aiden Hulbert that put the Cowboys up, 39-38.
GHS’ lead was extended to 40-38 with Braden Wood making the front end of a one-and-one free throw with 29 seconds to play.
If things weren’t already nerve-wracking enough for fans, the final 29 seconds got even crazier.
A wild scramble for a loose ball resulted in Coal Ridge making a miracle save — by preventing a backcourt violation. The ball found the hands of a Titan player, who drained a three-pointer, leaving 9.9 seconds on the clock.
Head coach Matt Smith called a timeout, then called another one once GHS got to half court — allowing time to design the final play of the game.
The Cowboys executed the inbounds play, resulting in an open look for Hunter Wood, but his three-point shot rimmed out at the buzzer.
Wood led the way for GHS, scoring 23 points in the game.
Overtime not enough
On Friday against Roaring Fork, both teams struggled to get things going offensively. However, GHS did just enough to hold a 16-14 lead at halftime.
That changed in the third quarter, as the Rams came out ready to go — scoring 10 points to the Cowboys’ four in the third. The surge gave Roaring Fork a 24-20 lead at the end of the quarter.
Hunter Wood and Caleb Hulbert stepped up for GHS in the fourth, combining for seven of the the Cowboys eight points in the stanza. Wood scored five points, while Hulbert added two — helping tie the game at 28-28.
In overtime, the Cowboys struggled to score — only making one basket, with three points coming on free throws. It gave Roaring Fork all they needed to squeak away with a victory.
Hunter Wood and Braden Wood led the way scoring seven points each.
Cowboys headed to state
With the WSL tournament over, the Cowboys will now turn their attention to round one of the 2019 Colorado High School Activities Association state tournament. GHS will face No. 13 Colorado Springs Christian (CSC) tomorrow, March 1 at 8 p.m. at James Irwin High School.
“We want to win, plain and simple,” said Hunter Wood. “We knew we were going to end up here and are now moving on with the playoff mindset — survive and advance.”
CSC enters the game with a 18-4 overall record and 10-2 in the Tri Peaks League — earning them second in their league — while averaging 64.7 points per game (PPG). Additionally, in the district tournament the Lions fell short of the title by falling to No. 4 The Vanguard School 77-70 in the championship game.
The Cowboys head into tomorrow’s game with a 16-6 overall record and 7-2 in the WSL — resulting in a third-place league finish — while averaging 53.2 PPG. Against common opponents — Pagosa Springs, Buena Vista, Salida, Florence and Roaring Fork — GHS is 4-2, while the Lions are 5-1.
The Cowboys and CSC both lost to Roaring Fork — the Cowboys losing 59-45 during the season and 35-33 in the district playoffs. The Lions lost to the Rams 54-45 — snapping a five-game win streak they were on at the time.
GHS and CSC also are similar in points given up per game. The Cowboys average 51.5 PPG, while the Lions have given up 51.8 PPG.
The winner of the game will go on to face the victor of the No. 4 The Vanguard School versus No. 29 Strasburg — which will be played before the Cowboys’ game in the same gym. The second-round match-up will take place on Saturday at 1 p.m. at James Irwin High School.
(Brandon Warr can be reached at 970.641.1414 or email@example.com.)
> Five of 10 teams in the Western Slope League made it to the state championship tournament.
> Those teams are No. 5 Coal Ridge, No. 10 Delta, No. 17 Roaring Fork, No. 18 Gunnison and No. 22 Grand Valley.