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Takeaways from Sterling boys, Eaton girls and Resurrection Christian boys 🏀 Round of 8 games

And, then there were two. As the winter season nears an end, only two Patriot League teams remain in
The Playbook
Takeaways from Sterling boys, Eaton girls and Resurrection Christian boys 🏀 Round of 8 games
By The Playbook • Issue #69 • View online
And, then there were two.
As the winter season nears an end, only two Patriot League teams remain in pursuit of state basketball titles this weekend at the University of Denver’s Hamilton Gymnasium.
We have all the info you need about the league’s sole survivors.

The Lead
Three Takeaways — Class 3A Basketball Championships (Round of 8), Thursday, University of Denver’s Hamilton Gym
Boys — No. 2 Sterling 51, No. 7 Montezuma-Cortez 30
DENVER — Sterling’s season-long dominance continued as it coasted into a semifinals game at 8:30 tonight against No. 3 Manual (22-3).
The Tigers improved to 24-1.
Sterling's Jace Pittman, center, shoots a layup against Montezuma-Cortez in the Class 3A Boys Basketball Championships at University of Denver. (Photo by Quinn Ritzdorf)
Sterling's Jace Pittman, center, shoots a layup against Montezuma-Cortez in the Class 3A Boys Basketball Championships at University of Denver. (Photo by Quinn Ritzdorf)
1. The first-quarter jitters hurt Sterling offensively.
The Tigers went the entire first quarter without a made field goal. Yes, you read that correctly. They didn’t make a field goal the whole eight minutes. Their only two points came off free throws.
They’ll hope they got that out of their system, because they could struggle if they play like that tonight against Manual, which averages 76.4 points per game.
“I don’t know if it was a lack of focus, which you wouldn’t think that would be the case with five seniors,” Sterling coach Mike Holloway said. “We missed layups and missed wide-open looks.”
Sterling defense turns into offense
Sterling defense turns into offense
2. Sterling’s defensive pressure helped it out of the funk.
It’s not very often you see a 1-3-1 zone in a basketball game, at any level, really. But, that is Holloway’s go-to press. And it worked wonders for the Tigers when they turned to it in the second quarter.
They forced Montezuma-Cortez into tough situations, which led to turnovers and easy offensive buckets. The press seemed to wake the Tigers up to their normal selves. They went on to score 17, 15 and 17 points in the next three quarters. Not to mention, they held the Panthers to single digit points in each quarter.
“We were looking for anything, for a spark at that point,” Holloway said. “It’s not that our defense was bad, but we just couldn’t get anything going. So, we were trying to maybe see if we could turn them over and create some energy.”
Sterling senior guard, Carter Keil, left, guards Montezuma-Cortez's Teagan Whiteskunk. (Photo by Quinn Ritzdorf)
Sterling senior guard, Carter Keil, left, guards Montezuma-Cortez's Teagan Whiteskunk. (Photo by Quinn Ritzdorf)
3. Sterling won without making a 3-pointer.
Now this was a shocker. Pregame jitters affecting the start of the game are understandable, but the fact the Tigers didn’t make a single shot behind the arc all night is crazy, especially since that is their bread and butter.
Plus, the fact they won by 21 points without making a 3. That is a positive the Tigers can take from this game. Knowing they can still win without relying on the 3-pointer has to be comforting going up against a tough Manual opponent.
“Make shots is the first thing,” Sterling senior Carter Keil said when asked about the game plan for Manual. “We beat them earlier in the season, so they aren’t new to us. We just have to play a lot better than we did tonight and execute and play defense.”
Resurrection Christian's Reece Johnson, middle, goes strong to the basket against the Manual defense Thursday during the Class 3A Boys Basketball Championships in Hamilton Gym in Denver. (Michael Brian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)
Resurrection Christian's Reece Johnson, middle, goes strong to the basket against the Manual defense Thursday during the Class 3A Boys Basketball Championships in Hamilton Gym in Denver. (Michael Brian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)
Boys — No. 3 Manual 84, No. 11 Resurrection Christian 68
By Bobby Fernandez, bfernandez@patriotplaybook.com
DENVER — Resurrection Christian (19-6) ended its season, while Manual (22-3) moves on to the semifinals at 8:30 tonight against No. 2 Sterling.
1. Manual’s immense length and athleticism caused the Cougars issues.
By no means is Resurrection Christian a short, unathletic team.
In fact, 11 of the Cougars’ 12 players are 6 feet or taller.
But, Manual — with a plethora of players 6-foot-3 and taller, a springiness, to boot — seemed to loom over the Cougars on defense.
The Thunderbolts were quick to step into passing lanes and even quicker to cut off drives to the hoop and contest shots in the paint.
The result? Resurrection Christian was often forced to settle for 3-pointers, even more so than its perimeter-oriented style normally dictates. Even shots the Cougars normally make seemed to go awry.
“I think we could have done a better job moving the ball, cutting to the basket,” Resurrection Christian senior Sparky Morris said. “But, yeah, (the Thunderbolts) are a good team. They play hard defense. And, they’re length was definitely a big factor.”
Morris had a pair of 3-pointers in the opening minutes to cut into an early 8-0 deficit. But, any time Manual could force the Cougars into a string of missed outside jumpers, that lead again began to balloon.
Resurrection Christian shot 9 for 25 from 3, while the Thunderbolts shot 4 for 13 — doing much more of their damage at the rim.
Resurrection Christian coach Bruce Dick shouts to his team during the Class 3A Boys Basketball Championships against Manual on Thursday at Hamilton Gym in Denver. (Michael Brian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)
Resurrection Christian coach Bruce Dick shouts to his team during the Class 3A Boys Basketball Championships against Manual on Thursday at Hamilton Gym in Denver. (Michael Brian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)
2. By the time Resurrection Christian could recover, the game was largely decided.
Clearly, the Cougars never quit in this game.
Junior guard Jackson Romero (22 points) and junior swingman Reece Johnson (18 points) helped lead a commendable Resurrection Christian effort that extended from buzzer to buzzer.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, when you spot a team as good as Manual an 8-0 lead in the initial minutes and a 15-point lead at half, you’re probably playing for pride at that point.
Resurrection Christian coach Bruce Dick said his team may have had some butterflies early in the game, playing in a stage of the postseason the program hasn’t been to in three years — a stage in the postseason the Cougars have never been to since joining 3A in 2016-17.
“We felt great coming in here,” Dick said. “But, I think when a few of the first shots didn’t fall down, we did play a little scared. And, every little mistake we made against Manual, they really did take advantage of.”
Resurrection Christian's Jackson Romero, right, runs into the stiff defense of Manual's Mekhi McGee on Thursday at Hamilton Gym in Denver. (Michael Brian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)
Resurrection Christian's Jackson Romero, right, runs into the stiff defense of Manual's Mekhi McGee on Thursday at Hamilton Gym in Denver. (Michael Brian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)
3. This certainly isn’t the end of the Cougars’ run as a contender. It’s probably only the beginning.
As much as Resurrection Christian’s 12-player roster wanted to get a tad bit further in this tournament for its seniors Morris and Logan Jones, the Cougars end their season knowing a bulk of their roster is back next year.
Almost all of their best players were juniors this winter, including their three leading scorers — Johnson (18.7 points per game), Romero (14.1) and Jude Howell (10.3).
They also bring back their top five rebounders and top six playmakers.
It’s not difficult to fathom the Cougars making it even further than the Round of 8 next season.
“I love my brothers; we played so hard this year,” said Morris, who will play club ball for Grand Canyon University next school year. “I know everyone in (the locker room) is going to be able to do it next year. They’re fighters. This is tough, but it’s a learning experience for them.”
Eaton’s Bailie Duncan, middle splits the defense of Delta’s Erika Kuta, left, and Alexa Huff for a shot Thursday in Hamilton Gym at DU’s Richie Center in Denver. (Michael Brian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)
Eaton’s Bailie Duncan, middle splits the defense of Delta’s Erika Kuta, left, and Alexa Huff for a shot Thursday in Hamilton Gym at DU’s Richie Center in Denver. (Michael Brian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)
Girls — No. 5 Eaton 53, No. 4 Delta 45
By Bobby Fernandez, bfernandez@patriotplaybook.com
DENVER — The Eaton Reds fended off Delta’s late-game rally, closed the game emphatically and secured a fairly comfortable win.
Eaton (24-1) — winners of 17 consecutive games — advanced to the semifinals against top-seeded St. Mary’s (24-1) at 7 tonight at Hamilton Gym.
1. Eaton was the more composed team.
After Delta took its first lead since the opening minutes — 42-40 on a pair of free throws by standout junior Sara Geddes with 4:47 left in the third‚ the Reds completely took control.
And, they also almost instantly took the lead again.
They tied the game on sophomore Nakaiya Kuskie’s layup less a minute after relinquishing the lead. Then, with 3:27 left in the game, Eaton junior Addie Randel drilled the biggest shot of the game — a transition 3-pointer off a nice Kaleigh Williams feed — to give the Reds the lead for good, 45-42.
Kuskie’s and Randel’s rapid-fire buckets were part of a 13-3 run by Eaton to close the game. While the Reds composed themselves and executed on both ends of the court, the Panthers seemed rushed, taking quick, off-balance shots and turning over the ball.
“They just have a confidence about them, knowing they’re going to find a way to get it done in some way,” Eaton coach Todd Hernandez said of his players. “You can kind of see that on the court with Michaela (Hill) and Addie and Bailie (Duncan). Those girls love having the ball in their hands. And, I definitely felt comfortable with them out there.”
Eaton's Addie Randel, right, drives to the hoop against Delta's Alexa Huff, left, during their Class 3A Girls Basketball Championships' Round of 8 game Thursday at the University of Denver's Hamilton Gymnasium. (Michael Brian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)
Eaton's Addie Randel, right, drives to the hoop against Delta's Alexa Huff, left, during their Class 3A Girls Basketball Championships' Round of 8 game Thursday at the University of Denver's Hamilton Gymnasium. (Michael Brian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)
2. Randel’s timing was impeccable.
In the type of game in which nerves reign supreme early and late in tightly contested games, Randel scored most of her team-high 11 points at just the right time.
She had a pair of 3-pointers in the opening 3 minutes to help the Reds to a 15-9 first quarter lead.
That cushion was pivotal throughout virtually the entire game.
Yet, the most important of her four buckets was her aforementioned clutch 3-pointer with 3:27 left.
“It was just in rhythm,” Randel said. “It just felt like every other (3-pointer). … We had the understanding that this game could be ours. This will be ours.”
This tournament has been somewhat of a tour de force for Randel. She leads Eaton in three state tournament games with 12.7 points per game after averaging just 6.3 points per game in the previous 22 games.
On Thursday, she shared the team-high in scoring with seniors Duncan and Sydney Booth.
Eaton’s Kaleigh Williams, middle, whips a pass around the defense of Delta’s Keely Porter, right, during their 3A state tournament game Thursday in Denver. The Reds won 53-45 to move on to the next round. (Michael Brian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)
Eaton’s Kaleigh Williams, middle, whips a pass around the defense of Delta’s Keely Porter, right, during their 3A state tournament game Thursday in Denver. The Reds won 53-45 to move on to the next round. (Michael Brian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)
3. Don’t expect Eaton to be intimidated tonight against top-seeded St. Mary’s.
On paper, perhaps the biggest disparity between Eaton and its semifinals opponent is where the two teams are seeded.
The Reds are the fifth seed, and the Pirates are the first seed. But, this game could — and perhaps should — be closer than what many casual observers might expect.
The two teams have identical 24-1 records. Eaton outscores opponents 52-35 per game, while St. Mary’s outscores its foes 65-34 — so no doubt the Reds will be focused on slowing down the Pirates’ pace and perhaps keeping the game in the 40s or 50s.
It’s tough to argue that either team played a tougher schedule than the other. In fact, the teams have four common opponents this winter — Resurrection Christian, Machebeuf, Pagosa Springs and University.
St. Mary’s is 4-0, and Eaton is 5-1 against those teams.
The Reds’ sole loss is to No. 3 Pagosa (22-2), while the Pirates’ only loss is to No. 2 Colorado Springs Christian (24-1) — those two teams just happened to be the two other semifinalists on the other side of the bracket.
If the proverbial tale of the tape leans in the higher seed’s favor, it is only slightly.
“They’re really good,” Hernandez said of St. Mary’s. “But, at this point, we just had to get here. And, now, we’ll let it ride. … (The Panthers) haven’t played in a lot of close games. So, hopefully, we can get them in a close game and see what happens.”
Playbook Prime Performance
Boys
Bobby: Jackson Romero. The gritty Resurrection Christian junior guard battled all night against an overpowering Thunderbolts lineup, with a team-high 22 points on 8-for-18 shooting — the second most points in the game next to Manual star Jaedon Bowles’ 29. With him, this game could have been a lot worse for the Cougars.
Quinn: Carter Keil. The Sterling senior stayed calm, cool and collected throughout the game, despite missing multiple layups. He was the only player, on either team, to score double figures with 14.
Girls
Bobby: Addie Randel. Eaton’s versatile junior continued her red-hot state tournament with 11 points, six rebounds, three steals and two assists. Plus, she made some huge clutch plays down the stretch of the Reds’ win.
Quinn: Bailie Duncan. The Eaton senior recorded 11 points, seven rebounds and two assists and shot 50 percent from the field to help the Reds advance to the semifinals of the state tournament.
Coach's Corner: Chad Shaw
Patriot League team and sport: Eaton softball
Years coaching: 20
Coaching history: Eaton baseball (2001-2009); Eaton softball (2006-present)
Why do you coach?: The absolute best part of coaching is to bear witness in the growth and maturity of young athletes and adults. Seeing new students and athletes enter the school and program as freshmen without much of an idea of who they are and what goals they have, then transform, in just four years, into self-assured young adults ready to take on the world is my motivation. Regardless of the achievements, I appreciate the athletes and parents that have allowed me to play a small role in my student-athletes’ education and development, on and off the field.
Favorite coaching moment?: So many moments to chose from: The 2016 Eaton softball state softball tournament. Facing Sterling, a team that had beaten us 18-1 in the regional tournament the weekend before, the team was able to pull together and defeat Sterling 7-6 in extra innings to get Eaton softball into the final four, a feat last done in 1999. Eventually lost the championship to Strasburg, but that run pushed the program to a new level.
Favorite coach?: Don Foster
Favorite athlete?: Terrell Davis for football and Ozzie Smith/Tony Gwynn for baseball.
Favorite sports team? Why?: Denver Broncos, Atlanta Braves, thanks TBS — the only station at that time with games on TV. Liverpool FC.
Favorite inspirational quote?: “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” – Pele
Who is your biggest role model? Why?: Mom — hardest working person I know.
Favorite food?: Steak/mashed potatoes
Favorite movie?: Bull Durham
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Wha'dya Think results
The moment you have all been waiting for. The question in the last issue asked if No. 11 Resurrection Christian would upset No. 3 Manuel in Thursday’s Round of 8 game in the 3A state tournament.
The Results: Manual defeated Resurrection Christian 84-68.
So, here is our updated leaderboard:
Wha'dya Think Leaderboard. Make predictions. Win prizes.
Wha'dya Think Leaderboard. Make predictions. Win prizes.
Congrats to Don S. of Windsor for correctly predicting that Manual would beat Resurrection Christian! He also was the closest to predicting the final score.
Your next chance to climb the Wha'dya Think leaderboard will be in Wednesday’s issue. Don’t miss out on a chance to win prizes at the end of March.
Future of the Patriot League
The wrestling future of the Patriot League is in good hands.
This past week, there were a couple middle school wrestling tournaments.
In the NPLMA League Tournament at Roosevelt High School, Valley Middle School wrestler Aidan Trujillo won the heavyweight bracket with two pins and total time of 2 minutes, 45 seconds on the mat. He is undefeated this year with a 21-0 record.
Scoreboard
Boys basketball
No. 2 Sterling 51, No. 7 Montezuma-Cortez 30
MCHS 7 6 9 8 — 30
SHS 2 17 15 17 — 51
MCHS (field goals, free throws-free throws attempted, points) — Michael Diaz 2 0-1 5, Andrew Wood 0 0-0 0, Cordell Baer 0 4-4 4, Joshua Chupp 0 0-0 0, Blake Keetch 0 0-0 0, Jens Jorgensen 2 0-0 4, Justin Gray 0 0-0 0, Titus Jackson 3 1-4 7, Adrian Mark 1 0-0 3, Teagan Whiteskunk 3 0-2 7, Travis Beeson 0 0-0 0. Totals 11 5-11 30
SHS — Colton Shalla 3 2-3 8, Axel Henry 0 4-5 4, Tucker Myers 0 4-5 4, Ryan Wecker 0 0-0 0, Brock Shalla 0 2-2 2, Dylan Anderson 0 0-0 0, Isaac Harris 1 2-2 4, Carter Keil 3 8-8 14, Jayson Frank 3 1-2 7, Zach Busmente 0 0-0 0, Jace Pittman 2 1-3 5, Jackson Keil 0 3-4 3. Totals 13 27-34 51
3-point field goals — MCHS 3 (Diaz, Mark, Whiteskunk); SHS 0
Total fouls — MCHS 24 (Baer, Jackson fouled out); SHS 16

No. 3 Manual 84, No. 11 Resurrection Christian 68
RCHS 8 14 20 26 — 68
MHS 17 20 24 23 — 84
RCHS — Jackson Romero 8 5-7 22, Reece Johnson 5 4-4 18, Sparky Morris 3 0-1 8, Jude Howell 3 0-0 7, Ethan Reeser 2 2-2 7, Reade Lindgren 2 0-0 4, Jared Whitaker 1 0-0 2, Logan Jones 0 0-2 0, Zach Cook 0 0-0 0, David Howlett 0 0-0 0, Cooper Strong 0 0-0 0, Drew Bobo 0 0-0 0. Totals 24 11-16 68
MHS — Jaedon Bowles 10 7-7 29, Jaden Stofel 7 2-6 19, Adontre Thompson 9 0-0 18, Mekhi McGee 4 0-0 8, Davion Davis 2 0-0 4, Jordan Reed 1 0-0 2, Lonzel Smith 1 0-0 2, Terrance Tolliver 1 0-0 2, Tank Davis 0 0-0 0, Phillip Williams 0 0-0 0, Josef Young 0 0-0 0, Gordon Bragg 0 0-0 0. Totals 35 10-10 84
3-point field goals — RCHS 9 (Johnson 4, Morris 2, Howell, Reeser, Romero); MHS 4 (Bowles 2, Stofel 2)
Total fouls — RCHS 9; MHS 16

Girls basketball
No. 5 Eaton 53, No. 4 Delta 45
DHS 9 15 11 10 — 45
EHS 15 14 7 17 — 53
DHS — Keely Porter 3 7-11 15, Sara Geddes 4 4-4 12, Erika Kuta 5 1-3 11, Kaley St. Peter 1 0-0 3, Haylin McCulloch 0 2-2 2, Alexa Huff 1 0-1 2, Madison Geick 0 0-2 0, Missa Webb 0 0-0 0, Marcy Schaal 0 0-0 0, Reagan Clay 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 14-23 45
EHS — Sydney Booth 5 1-1 11, Addie Randel 4 0-1 11, Bailie Duncan 2 5-6 11, Michaela Hill 1 6-9 8, Ahana Leffler 2 2-4 6, Nakaiya Kuskie 1 0-0 2, Gracie Schreiber 0 2-4 2, Kaleigh Williams 1 0-0 2, Jennifer Jarnagin 0 0-3 0. Totals 16 16-28 53
3-point field goals — DHS 3 (Porter 2, St. Peter); EHS 5 (Randel 3, Duncan 2).
Total fouls — DHS 25 (Gedddes, Schaal fouled out); EHS 22 (Booth fouled out)
Coming up in Saturday's edition of The Playbook
Get all the latest news and analysis from the 3A state basketball tournaments, as the Eaton girls and Sterling boys try to punch their tickets to the championship finals!
Thanks for reading! See you Saturday!
Bobby Fernandez, The Playbook Publisher
Quinn Ritzdorf, The Playbook Reporter
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