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By Joshua Cole
Seven minutes. That’s how long it took for Heritage High School point guard Sullivan Ziegler to adjust to the lights and longer basketball court at the Denver Coliseum.
After that, Ziegler was in control, driving Heritage to the 5A classification girls’ basketball playoffs state semifinals.
Heritage defeated Chaparral High School, 58-48, in the quarterfinals, March 6, to advance to the semifinals at the University of Colorado-Boulder.
Ziegler, a senior, had six turnovers in the first seven minutes of the game as Heritage fell behind 8-1 and then 12-7 to their league opponents. After that, though, she was nearly flawless directing play. On the possession following her sixth turnover, with only 25 seconds remaining in the first period, she rebounded a missed Chaparral shot and sprinted up the court. With three Chaparral defenders blocking her path to the basket, Ziegler stopped at the free-throw line, pivoted around and zipped a pass to teammate Lauren Huggins, who drained a three-pointer to get within two points.
By Joshua Cole
The means were different but the end the same for Arapahoe High School’s boys’ basketball team.
In last year’s 5A classification boys’ basketball state quarterfinals, Arapahoe scored 48 total points; in this year’s quarterfinals, Arapahoe scored nearly that much in half the time, getting 47 points in the second half, March 5, at the Denver Coliseum.
Both years, Arapahoe still lost.
Arapahoe High School center Parker Semin blocks Regis Jesuit High School’s Michael Clark during Regis Jesuit’s 86-72 win against Arapahoe in the quarterfinals of the state boys’ basketball playoffs. Photo by Pat Miller/patmiller.com
In 2009, Arapahoe fell to George Washington High School. This year, Regis Jesuit High School eliminated Arapahoe, by an 86-72 score.
“We’re really let down. We thought we could come out and win,” said Arapahoe center Parker Semin. “We gave the physical effort, but sometimes the mental effort wasn’t there, and that’s what did us in.”
Whereas the 2009 quarterfinal game was a defensive battle for most of the game, this year’s Arapahoe squad jumped out on offense immediately when the team came out of the locker room. Tim Billingsley sunk three three-pointers in the first two minutes of the game, putting Arapahoe ahead 9-2.
Coming out after halftime, both teams combined for 20 points in less than two minutes before an official blew a whistle.
Arapahoe scored 29 points in the fourth period – a feat that Arapahoe completed in eight minutes that many professional teams can’t do in 12 minutes and some college teams struggle to do in 20 minutes.
Yet, Regis was hot for longer, as Arapahoe’s shooting fired down much quicker. After Billingsley’s raining three-pointers to start the game, Regis outscored Arapahoe 21-5 the rest of the period.
Regis was able to hold onto the ball better – turning over the ball nine times compared with Arapahoe’s 16 – and to shoot more accurately when it mattered.
“We shot well, but we executed probably 75 percent of our defense,” Billingsley said. “We got into a shooting match with them. Eventually they were the ones that got the stops and we didn’t, and that’s what killed it for us.”
Regis Jesuit’s Joey Ptasinski missed only two of 10 shots in the game – including making his final six shots – as he finished with a game-high 24 points. Michael Clark added 21 points, with four three-pointers. Also, both were perfect from beyond the arc in the second half, hitting three-pointers after Arapahoe had collapsed inside on Bud Thomas or was too slow to rotate on second or third passes.
Thomas, Regis Jesuit’s leading scorer and last year’s top player in the state, was held to only 10 points in the game, but the forward’s three-pointer in the fourth quarter came as Arapahoe had whittled a big lead to single digits.
Although Arapahoe’s attention to Thomas left Regis Jesuit’s other scorers open, Arapahoe’s downfall was due to its own mistakes.
“Our game plan was to shut down Bud and Joey. We did a pretty good job against Bud but not against Joey. And Michael Clark had the game of his life,” Arapahoe’s Semin said. “We tried to make somebody else beat us (besides Thomas) and they did.”
Billingsley had a team-high 23 points, including five three-pointers. Semin, a junior, had 20 points, 17 in the second half.
Arapahoe ended its season 22-4.
Regis Jesuit, which won last year’s state championship and hasn’t lost to an in-state opponent in two years, is scheduled to play the semifinals March 11 against Doherty High School, with the winner advancing to the March 13 championship against Aurora Central or Fairview high school. The semifinals and the championship games are in Boulder.
Fairview steals Grandview’s hopes
A 27-5 run from the end of the second period to the start of the fourth quarter doomed Grandview from returning to the high school boys’ basketball state semifinals for the first time since 2006.
Fairview High School defeated Grandview High School 72-54 in the quarterfinals of the 5A state boys’ basketball tournament, March 5 at the Denver Coliseum.
Grandview had a 35-28 lead in the final minute of the first half against the No. 2 Knights, of Boulder. But Fairview had two steals and two easy baskets in the final 30 seconds to get within three points then forced five turnovers and held Grandview to two field goals in the third quarter to take a 15-point lead entering the final period. Grandview’s lead was also unexpected in the first half as Fairview had missed all of its three-pointers in the first half but made 5-6 in the third period.
After Grandview went up 6-0 in the first two-and-a-half minutes off of three Fairview turnovers, Fairview gave up the ball only seven more times in the rest of the game while taking the ball from Grandview 20 times. Fairview also had 10 offensive rebounds to Grandview’s 4.
Grandview point guard Dominique Lawrence played with foul trouble for most of the game and fouled out early in the fourth period. With Lawrence on the bench, Grandview put either forward Kevin Gausman or freshman Eric Garcia at the point. So Fairview’s pressing defense drooled and pounced on the Wolves each time Grandview had the ball.
“Dom was struggling, too, and they were picking us off the dribble,” said Grandview head coach Gary Childress.
Gausman was hot early, making his first four shots and getting 17 points by halftime. But he made only 1-5 field goals in the second half and even missed his two free-throws.
“It’s tough when you have a guy as important as he is to us,” Gausman. “I had to be our point for a couple of times. Me taking the point down is not a good idea. That hurts us. We looked to him to be a scorer and bring the pressure off of everybody else. When he came out, you could tell everybody’s heads went down.”
Grandview, a No. 4 seed, made it to this year’s quarterfinals with a double-overtime victory in the second round and a 15-point win at No. 1 Montbello in the third round, March 2.
Grandview hadn’t advanced past the second round of the playoffs since 2006, when the Wolves had gotten to the semifinals three out of four seasons.
Grandview finished its season 16-10.
“These guys got us back into a prominent level,” Childress said. “We had three ‘Final Four’ years and had a dropoff since then. I was really proud they got us back into the seam of things.”
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