The Granada Bobcats won the District 2 Tournament 51-44 over the Cheyenne Wells Tigers. Both teams will advance to this weeks Regional Tournament with Granada getting to host.
The Class 1A District 2 Tournament held last weekend was one for the record books as being exceptionally competitive. Basketball fans across the region filled the gyms each night in order to watch some of the finest boys’ basketball in the state.
When the dust had cleared on Saturday night at the Lamar Community Building, the Granada Bobcats, the best #4 and 13-8 team area fans have seen in a long time, was crowned the District 2 Champions with a 51-44 win over another group of upstarts, the Cheyenne Wells Tigers, who themselves sport a 14-8 record.
Neither team, on paper, look all that impressive when you look at their records but, of course, there’s a story behind that.
In high school sports the 3 I’s come into play every year for a coach dealing with kids. The 3 I’s include Injury, Illness, and Ineligibility. These are situations that take a kid out of the rotation and put them on the bench in street clothes. And for both Granada and Cheyenne Wells they have had their fair share of the 3 I’s.
The Tigers started slowly this season as they were missing two key players to severe football injuries. Both senior Blake Gilmore and junior Perry Chadwick were out for the first third of the season due to injury. During that time, Coach Kendall Pelton worked to find personnel who could step in and replace what they had lost. He found them in sophomore Zach Dickey as a point guard, and the big freshman Corey Hill who started dominating the box.
When first Gilmore, then Chadwick returned, the Tigers began firing on all cylinders beating a lot of really good teams including Granada, 59-47, on Feb. 3. But then one of the I’s reared its ugly head and the Tigers lost Dickey, who Pelton commented was really starting to shoot it well, to a severe hip injury; and then Hill when he broke his arm in the final period in Granada. That left the Tigers short-handed of players with experience.
Granada had the same issues. They had top athlete Maddox Coleman on injured relief for weeks as the sophomore battled to get back after a football injury. Then senior team leader Brandon Gonzales was struck with a scary respiratory illness that put him in intensive care in a city hospital. It took him weeks to recover. And coupled with all that Coach Marquez had a few games where ineligibility came into play. Marquez knew if he could just get everyone on the court at one time, they would be a tough team to beat.
That wish finally came true at the District 2 Tournament where the Granada Bobcats were firing on all cylinders plowing through three very tough teams including Eads in the quarterfinals, 50-47; top-seeded McClave in the semifinals, 51-44; and finally the Cheyenne Wells Tigers, 51-42, winning the District 2 Tournament AND gaining a home regional berth with a 13-8 record.
The road to the championship was not easy for Granada as they were nearly beaten by Eads in the first round as they found themselves down by 10 points with just over two minutes to go in the game. Eads did a poor job of managing their lead taking a couple of bad shots and then turning the ball over twice. That’s all the advantage the Bobcats needed as the storied Granada comeback was seen by the packed crowd in the Community Building.
Eads’ Connor Wollert did all he could to save the Eads win, but a key turnover late in the game put big John Hainer on the free throw line with 9 seconds remaining and Granada with a one-point advantage. The big guy dropped both free throws and Eads could not get a good shot off after that.
Wollert had 19 points for Eads, including 3 triples, and 7 rebounds. Point guard Porter Spady put in 11 points and pulled down 8 rebounds.
Eads could not stop Hainer who led the Bobcats with 18 points. Jonus Guevara added 15 points and 8 rebounds, while Coleman hit for 10 points and added 9 boards.
The win moved Granada to a date with their nemesis the McClave Cardinals who beat Granada in the Christmas Tournament championship game and then who pummeled the Bobcats on January 27, 66-48, during the regular season.
The Bobcats jumped out to a 15-6 lead in the first period and led 25-19 at the intermission. Both teams struggled to score against the outstanding defenses.
McClave made a bit of a comeback behind a Kolten Smartt three-ball to start the third period. But they would then have to contend with Hainer with the presence of their big man, Connor Forgue, who got nailed with his 4th foul early in the third period.
Going into the fourth Granada put the pressure on and jumped out to a 36-26 lead with 5:20 left when Gonzales hit a triple giving the Bobcats a ten-point advantage, 36-26.
Granada then tried to control the ball, but the athletic Cards swooped in and stole the ball creating what they do best—fast break buckets. McClave senior Aydin Gomez hit a triple with 3:34 left inching the Cards closer but still trailing 38-32. Gomez then hit a second triple a minute later giving the Cards hope, 42-35.
With 1:45 left Smartt gave McClave a shot in the arm with a triple that moved them within striking distance, 45-41.
Things got interesting with :50 seconds left as Forgue got nailed with his fifth foul. The foul put Coleman on the line where the sophomore hit 1-of-2. Hainer grabbed the rebound and was swamped with three Cardinals hanging all over him. The big guy did his best and tried to clear them off but finally Coach Marquez was forced to call a time out before there was a 5-count. The McClave crowd was livid as they thought Hainer’s actions were excessive.
For the rest of the game the Bobcats made their free throws extending their lead to 51-41 until Card sophomore Ethan Bronniman hit a three at the buzzer leaving the final score at 51-44.
Coleman led all scorers with 17 points. Hainer had a double-double performance with 11 points, 15 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. Guevara added 10 points and 9 rebounds.
For the Cards it was Gomez with a double-double performance hitting for 12 points and pulling down 10 boards. Aiden Martinez also had a double-double game with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Bronniman hit for 9 points. Ray Mungaray added 4 points and 9 rebounds.
On the other side of the bracket the #2 Cheyenne Wells Tigers ended Kit Carson’s season with a 47-30 quarterfinal win.
In that contest Blake Gilmore began warming up hitting five triples and scoring 17 points. Carson Noe added 14 points, while Ty Scheler had 9 points.
The semifinals game saw the Tigers matched up with a rough and athletic Cheraw group who had beaten a good Wiley group in the quarterfinals, 45-35. In that game with Wiley the Panthers could not get into the middle against the Wolverines big man Goodrich. They had two problems in that Cheraw game. One was their shooting percentage at just 32% and the other was the fact that their big man Cooper Tixier spent the bulk of the game on the bench in foul trouble.
The win over Wiley brought Cheraw up against the Cheyenne Wells Tigers who had beaten the Wolverines 35-34 on January 20. The Tigers jumped out to a big lead 10-3 after the first quarter, but Cheraw settled in and made it a ballgame by halftime with CW on top 23-16 in the low scoring contest.
Throughout the second half it was back and forth with neither team able to get the advantage. The Tigers just had too much fire power coming from Gilmore who hit a spectacular 7 triples against Cheraw.
CW would win the game 48-39. Cheraw went on to lose to McClave in the third place game. The Tigers advanced to the championship against Granada.
Gilmore led all scorers with 23 points in the semifinals. Noe added 10 points and 8 rebounds. Provost led Cheraw with 16 points and Goodrich added 11 points in the loss.
On Saturday night the Tigers jumped out to a 10-8 lead after the first period behind two triples by Gilmore who had already hit 5 against Kit Carson and 7 long balls against Cheraw in the tournament.
The second period saw Maquez make a defensive adjustment putting Oryan Hainer solely on Gilmore in a box-and-1 or diamond-and-1 defensive set. Slowly the scoring for the Tigers slowed down as Granada came back into the game and led at halftime, 20-18.
By the second half the defensive scheme against Gilmore affected the Tigers as they were outscored 17-6. The four-man zone left holes in the Granada defense at the elbows and just in front of the free throw line, but the Tigers elected to take one dribble into the paint meeting up with Hainer who disrupted many of the CW shots.
The Tigers had not answer for Hainer as he seemingly scored at will. Granada began to stall early in the fourth quarter leading 39-24. But Noe found some room on the left baseline dropping a triple with 5:10 left in the game and a second lone ball with 4:00 minutes getting CW to within eight, 41-33.
As Granada continued to eat up the clock the Tigers were forced to put them on the line where they made enough free throws to control the outcome, despite Gilmore getting loose for one more triple.
Hainer led all players with a double-double performance pouring in 29 points and pulling down 11 boards. The senior big man would also chalk up 4 blocked shots.
Coleman added 7 points, 7 boards, 3 assists, and 3 steals to the total.
For the Tigers it would be Noe who led with 12 points. Gilmore, Ty Scheler, and Bryson Hyle all added 9 apiece in the loss.
The Hi-Plains League qualified six boys’ team to the regional tournament. Both Granada and McClave will host their Region.
Granada goes in with a #6 seed and will play Sangre de Cristo (#27, 11-10) on Friday night. Briggsdale (#11, 14-6) will take on Idalia (#22, 11-10) at the Granada site. The winners will play for a trip to the 1A Boys’ State Championship Tournament to be held March 9, 10, 11.
McClave (#3, 16-5) will host Region 3 where they play Denver Waldorf (#30, 9-11) in the first round on Friday. The other side of that Regional bracket includes Dove Creek (#14, 15-6) taking on Front Range Baptist (#19, 12-10)
Wiley (#16, 13-7) will play Pikes Peak Christian (#17, 13-7) in the first round at Belleview Christian (#1, 20-1) who takes on Ouray (#32, 9-11)
Cheyenne Wells (#9, 14-8) will play Centennial (#24, 14-6) in the first round on Friday at Sierra Grande (#8, 13-8) who plays Peetz (#25, 10-12)
Cheraw (#12, 14-8) will match up with Arickaree (#21, 14-7) at Otis (#5, 18-4) who first plays Nucla (#28, 8-10).
Eads (#15, 10-10) has a date on Thursday, Mar. 2 with La Veta (#18, 14-8) at the Denver Jewish Day (#2, 17-3) site. The DJD will go up against Hi-Plains (#31, 7-12). Winners will play to advance to the state tournament on Friday, Mar. 3.