OURAY COUNTY – Only eight high school basketball teams in the state remain in post-season play this week, having fought to secure their place at the State tournament’s Great Eight.
Among Colorado’s final eight teams standing are not one but two local boys’ basketball squads. Both Ouray and Ridgway play their first games in the Great Eight tournament today.
The Trojans, who beat the Demons in the Divisional Final match in Olathe on February 27 to take the top seed going into the Regional tourney, only had to win one game to advance to the State bracket – a task that was easier said than done.
Ridgway, meanwhile, had to post two back-to-back wins last week to earn their trip to the basketball showdown, starting today at the Pueblo Events Center: The Demons upended Primero 60-55 last Tuesday, then beat South Baca 59-51 on Saturday to join their neighborhood rivals at the State Tournament’s Great Eight.
Ridgway plays Hi-Plains today at 10:15 a.m., while Ouray faces Creede at 1:15 p.m.
Ouray beats Walsh in nail-biter Regional Final
ALAMOSA – “The kids earned that win,” said a relieved Coach Jim Blennis following the Ouray boys’ basketball team’s hard-fought victory over Walsh in the 1a Regional Final match, played last Saturday in Alamosa.
The 64-58 victory catapults the team into the State Tournament bracket, where they’ll face the fierce Creede squad (20-2) today in Pueblo in the Great Eight showdown. If they can make it past Creede, the Trojans will move onto the State Final Four tomorrow.
Blennis said last Saturday’s Regional final tested the Trojans’ mettle throughout a tough four quarters.
“They took us out of our comfort zone. We really had to rely on our basketball instincts and our cohesiveness” to eek out the six-point win, Blennis said.
Walsh seemed to have the Trojans’ number from the start of the Saturday match, working meticulously to stymie Ouray’s normally brawny offense.
“They were well prepared for us, they seemed to know just what we were doing,” Blennis admitted. “It took a lot of grit and determination, and that is what pulled us out of that game with the victory.”
After emerging from a worrisome first quarter in which Walsh had jumped ahead by ten, the Trojans returned to the court with renewed vigor. They aligned their crosshairs on Walsh’s biggest scorer, Jaxon Meardon (who scored a total of 15 points in the first half,) and thanks to indomitable defense from Nakoa Martinez were able to close the gap to three points by halftime.
Although Walsh’s defense put a damper on Ouray’s drive to score, the Trojans ultimately came up with a game plan that was tough for their adversaries to overcome. With four Trojans shooting in the double-digits (Chris Blansett, Chris Cramp, Kenneth Wilson, and Nick Purvis,) and the rest of the team pulling their weight while in shooting range of the basket, the Trojans climbed to a six-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
“It didn’t matter who had the ball, we kept working to get good shots. That makes it difficult for another team, when anybody with a ball in their hands is a threat,” Blennis said.
Walsh had decimated the Trojans lead within a minute of the fourth, however, quickly erasing any relief Ouray may have enjoyed while holding onto the slim lead.
Eli Holmes ultimately came through with the clutch move for Ouray, sinking his free throws late in the fourth to give his team a five-point margin with just 40 seconds on the game clock. Walsh was, at that juncture, driven into a corner. They didn’t hit another shot, and Ouray emerged with the win and the Regional Champ title.
Coach Blennis says the team won’t be changing their game plan going into this Thursday’s match against Creede, but will need to step up their competitiveness if they hope to continue to move forward in the State Tournament bracket.
“We know it will be another challenge, but we’ve made it that far… we’ll just have to see who plays the best game,” he said.
Ouray won the Divisional Tournament last year, but came up short against Holly in the Regional Final then lost to Grenada in the consolation round.
Ridgway overcomes South Baca to win State berth
For the Demons basketball team, making it to this year’s State Tournament was not a foregone conclusion.
Unable to zero in on the basket in their Divisional Final match against Ouray at the end of February, the Demons had just two days to recoup before their meeting with Primero in the Regional Tournament. Pulling out the win last Tuesday 60-55, Ridgway then had to dig deep once again to keep their State Tournament dreams alive.
Ridgway’s boys did just that last Saturday, beating South Baca 59-51 and winning a State Tournament berth in the process.
Unlike their earlier post-season matches, Ridgway stepped onto the court relaxed, confident, and poised to take down their competition.
“We started out really well,” said Ridgway head coach Paul Fouts of the key to his team’s success on Saturday. “We were able to knock down a lot of shots in the beginning, and that gave us the confidence we needed. From there on we were able to withstand any runs South Baca made – and they made a couple.”
The Demons held onto a strong lead throughout the first half, bumping their advantage up to 12 points during the third quarter spearheaded by exacting shooting from big game scorers Jake Coulter and Josh Crozier. Coulter and Dusty Woodruff got mired in foul trouble, however, and the disruption gave South Baca just the fuel they needed to close the gap to within three points with just six minutes left to play.
Coulter returned to the court in the final minutes, and he and the rest of his team – including Harley Rider, fresh off the bench but proving he belonged on the court thanks to his aggressive play – were able to stave off any comeback South Baca had planned.
The Demons took the win 59-51.
“Overall we played solidly and did the things we needed to do to win the game,” Fouts said of the Regional match last Saturday.
Ridgway’s plan of attack for today’s first State game is to stick to their guns.
“We’re always better at doing what we know how to do, rather than trying to stop another team from doing what they do best. I think we can play with anybody in the state… We’re ready to make some noise,” Fouts said.
For updated results from today’s games, check www.chsaa.org.