Highlands Ranch Stifles East in Season Finale
If the state tournament is the main course of the 2011-2012 basketball campaign, mile high hoops fans were treated to a tasty appetizer Saturday night.
In a match-up of two teams that were ranked in the top ten all season long, Highlands Ranch knocked off Denver East 58-49, in the final game of the regular season in the state of Colorado.
Not only was it odd to have a game on the last day before selection Sunday, it was unique because it was held at the Magness Arena at Denver University. Coach Bob Caton of Highlands Ranch and Coach Rudy Carey of East – two legendary Colorado high school coaches – planned this much-hyped season finale during the off-season.
“I called Coach Carey to set this up and he was all for it. We wanted to give the kids a great atmosphere. This is what its all about. A Denver team versus a suburban team. This was fun basketball. We need more games like this,” said Coach Caton, in his fifth year as the Falcons head coach.
Entering the game both teams had identical impressive records of 19-3. In the last poll of the season, East was ranked 4th and Highlands Ranch 7th, setting up a quality contest between two state title contenders.
“It is always a battle against East,” said Coach Caton. “Needless to say, East is always a number one program in the state year in and year out. They are a tremendous team with tremendous players and Coach Carey has a record that speaks for itself.”
The first three quarters of the game were a back and forth defensive struggle, characterized by lockdown defense and several rejections on both ends of the court. East sophomore Tyre Robinson had a few ridiculous swats, and Ranch’s Austin Haldorson had a big block as well.
The Angels were in control late in the second quarter 28-18, but the Falcons closed the half on a 7-0 run. Highlands Ranch then stifled East in the third quarter, holding them to a measly four points. The Falcons headed into the final quarter up 33-32, carrying a massive amount of momentum.
Highlands Ranch then got their groove going in the final quarter, including a 12-0 run that blew the game wide open.
“We finished more shots in the second half,” said Coach Caton.
“We ended up finishing strong and getting the win,” said Austin Haldorson, who finished the game with 17 points and six rebounds.
“The atmosphere and the environment that we played in definitely helped out,” said Haldorson, who has committed to play college ball at the University of Wyoming.
Credit Highlands Ranch defense for putting the clamps on East’s sophomore sensation Dominique Collier, who had a quiet night, despite leading his team with 10 points.
Falcon’s senior guard Brett Brady, who had 16 points, including four late free throws to ice the game, elaborated on how they were able to smother Collier.
“In practice we worked on staying with him and always recognizing where he was on the floor at all times,” said Brady.
This game was a delicious taste of things to come, as the state tournament starts next week. Don’t be surprised if these two titans face off again in the near future, possibly deep in the tournament. And if they do meet once again, there will be a lot more of the line.
“This win is really something to build on,” said Coach Caton. “I think it’s great for us. But now we start all over. It was a good win, but like I said, now we start all over.”
The final score would have been a lot closer if East was not abysmal from the free throw line. They were 8 of 16 (50%)…Highlands Ranch did an adequate job of breaking East’s patented press, only failing to get the ball across the half line twice…Collier, who usually never comes out of the game, had to come out in the second quarter because it looked like he got the wind knocked out of him. With him on the bench, Highlands Ranch went on a surge that cut the East lead to just 3 points at the break…East’s Tyre Robinson had more block (4) then points (3), but all 4 swats were highlight reel rejections…Each team had one dunk in the game. Talan Whitaker threw down for East and Zach Braxton flushed one home for Highlands Ranch…