DENVER – Some words came to the mind of Eagle Ridge Academy players and coaches on the floor of the Denver Coliseum March 3.
Words like “ragged,” “rugged” and “ugly.”
The other words that came to mind were the most important .. a win, regardless of what it looked like.
Eagle Ridge moved into the semifinals of the state 4A boys basketball tournament by beating Pueblo Central 63-57. The win sets up a contest against 17th-seeed Holy Family at 12:45 p.m. Thursday, March 9, at the Coliseum.
“The first half, we had 14 turnovers. The second half, we had five,” ERA coach Jay Powell said. “We knew at the beginning they were going to play at a pace that was going to speed us up. We needed to calm down.”
“It was a fast-paced game,” said Peyton Torres, who scored nine points. “We needed to slow down a little bit. We got them out of their zone. We were able to throw good passes across the court, not lob passes. We had to throw hard. They were extremely fast. We broke the press the correct way.”
“We shot like 35 percent in the first quarter. It was ugly, yeah,” said Christian Seifert, who finished with 13 points. “We have to keep shooting. We have to defend. We have to do the little things. The shots never started to fall, but we kept ourselves in it.”
The Wildcats made the semifinal round of the state tournament last year. Their top scorer was Xavier Davis, who poured in 26 points. Ozzy Vigil was next with eight.
Eagle Ridge advanced to the elite 8 of the state 3A tournament last year. This is the Warriors’ first year in class 4A. Their top scorer was Hunter Hill. He scored 26 points despite missing some time in the fourth quarter because of a tailbone injury.
“I’m fine,” Hill said after the game. “The win makes it feel amazing. We got to the basket. We knocked down our free throws at the end of the game. We just played as a team, and that’s always going to help us win.”
Another thing that helped the Warriors’ cause was converting those free throws. As Pueblo Central committed foul after foul to extend the game, the Wildcats were making 3-pointers – one from Ozzy Vigi and two from Xavier Davis. The rally cut a 10-point Warriors’ lead to four points in the span of a minute. ERA made five of eight from the free-throw line in the last minutes, and Peyton Torres sealed the outcome with a layup off a turnover.
“We knocked down free throws in crucial minutes,” Powell said. “We had high IQ plays at the end. Isaiah (sophomore Isaiah Garcia, who scored a key basket early in the fourth quarter) came in and helped us out. All the boys played strong, especially in the second half. We just had to settle down.”
Even though the win wasn’t aesthetically pleasing, Powell said it will help for the match against Holy Family.
“It helps show the boys they have to dig deep,” Powell said. “They have to fight. They have to go out there and take it.”
“As long as we got the win, that’s all that matters,” Hill said.
“Our defense was really good,” Seifert said. “We’ve got some long guys, some athletic guys. If we lock in on defense, there’s no team that should be able to beat us.”