Rebels Triumph in Top Ten Tussle
The Denver South Rebels survived a frantic fourth quarter rally Wednesday night and toppled the Thomas Jefferson Spartans 78-76. This marquee match-up pitted two top ten teams in the 4A classification, and it certainly lived up to the hype at the Thomas Jefferson high school gymnasium.
South, who was ranked 8th in the Boys 4A classification entering the contest, outlasted the 7th ranked Spartans and their furious comeback attempt. It was a dramatic, gritty, physical game that featured several bloody noses, over 50 foul shots attempted, multiple monster dunks, and a missed lay-up that would have sent the game into overtime.
TJ was losing 73-60 with less than three minutes to play, when they scratched their way back into contention. With less than ten seconds left, TJ had possession of the ball and was down 78-76, when Spartan forward Treyvon Andres missed a point blank lay-up that would have tied the game up. It seemed like the first thing Andres did wrong all night – he led all scorers with 25 points and galvanized the Spartans comeback effort.
“It was a little stressful at the end,” said South head coach Adam Kelsey, in his 13th season at the helm. “I think we were playing to lose and not playing to win, but we pulled through.”
South was able to post the commanding lead in the fourth quarter thanks in large part to their suffocating press, which induced many Spartan turnovers, and paved the way for easy Rebel buckets.
“Our press is our bread and butter,” said Coach Kelsey. “That’s what we work on. We want to create offense from defense. I think we did tonight. We got a number of steals and sped them up. That’s our goal.”
“We practice on press 30 minutes a day at least. The whole program does that and these kids are programmed to trap and scramble all over the court,” said South assistant and Jayvee head coach Doug Hoff, who was pleased with the ramifications of this victory.
“This win will move us ahead of them in the Top Ten (in 4a), and it’s also a signature win for seeding later on in the year.”
TJ was able to battle back in this contest when the freakishly athletic Rebel junior Ibrahim Sylla fouled out of the game with 3:03 remaining. Sylla’s ridiculous hops were on display all night whether he was swatting Spartan shots or viciously throwing down alley-oops with one hand. In only his second year playing the sport of basketball, the African-born Sylla had his eyes parallel to the rim on multiple occasions.
“When Ibrahim went out it was a big difference. He was in foul trouble the whole game. I think it was a great team effort because others had to step up,” said Coach Kelsey.
Rebel Mark Dean Jr. helped pick up the slack with 16 points as did Earl Chavez Jr. with 13.
“We came together at the end and pulled it out,” said Chavez Jr. “We have to keep working together and keep this rolling.”
Spartan Treyvon Andres, a 6’7 junior forward, led all scorers with 25 points, four of which came on back to back rim rattling dunks that sent the packed crowd into a frenzy and tied the game at 51-51.
On the next possession, however, Rebel point guard Antonio Garcia knocked down a clutch three that halted the Spartan momentum and keyed a 9-0 South run.
“Coach gives me the green light. So any open shot I have I just take,” said Garcia, who was one of several players who shed blood during he contest. Garcia sustained a bloody nose, but he was smiling after the victory with a piece of gauze jammed up his nostril.
“This is a great win for us. They are one of the top teams in 4A. Great game,” said Garcia.
Although both Thomas Jefferson (9-5) and South (11-3) are in the Denver Prep League, this was still considered a non-league game. These two teams will clash again later in the season when league play ensues.
“We get to see TJ again and I know they are going to be real hungry to get another crack at us,” said Coach Kelsey.
TJ gets another crack on February 1st, and if the game is anything like this highly entertaining contest, another Denver Prep League dandy is on the horizon.
South had a nice balanced attack, with four players in double figures – Tyson Purifoy (11 points), Antonio Garcia (10 points), Mark Dean Jr. (16 points), and Earl Chavez Jr. (13 points). Ibrahim Sylla (9 points) was one point away from double figures…TJ’s Cameron Brown took a brutal fall in the first quarter, banged his head hard, and needed a bandage the rest of the game. Brown returned to score 12 points, including a deep three and some clutch free throws down the stretch….TJ’s Eric Andres, Treyvon’s older brother, tallied 20 points….17 different players scored in the game. Nine for South and eight for TJ…