DENVER - For Colorado boys basketball fans, the annual trek to the Denver Coliseum for the Class 5A state quarterfinals is the best day of the season. The eight remaining teams in the bracket - the Great 8, they are called - play four games in succession in a prime venue before spirited and appreciative crowds.
The 2012 version didn't disappoint, either.
Two games went down to the final shot, while a third was competitive midway into the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, the final game showcased a top seed - Chaparral - regaining its edge to make its first trip to the Final Four.
The field will have some familiarity, too, as Arapahoe and Highlands Ranch will make repeat visits to the semifinals. And what tournament would be complete without an unlikely survivor? Rangeview will assume that role at the CU Events Center in Boulder on Thursday.
Great 8 RoundupIn bracket orderArapahoe (Centennial) 55, ThunderRidge (Highlands Ranch) 53
The top-seeded Warriors (24-2) returned to the Final Four for the second consecutive season behind 18 points from senior Zach Kocur
. Kocur scored 13 points in the fourth quarter, including a reverse layup with 7 seconds remaining to provide the final margin.
ThunderRidge had tied it on the previous possession on a drive by Joe Marrucci
, but he failed to convert the subsequent free throw for the three-point play with 17 seconds remaining. After a timeout, Arapahoe's Shane Jensen
worked the ball to the top of the key before feeding a breaking Kocur at the basket. ThunderRidge committed a turnover at mid-court on its final possession.
"They had been playing us a little tighter (up top) because we had hit some shots, so coach called one
of our backup plays," Kocur said. "I just got open, and it was a great pass."
Kocur also delivered at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, hitting 8 of 10 from the stripe. He also had seven rebounds. Jensen added 16 points for the Warriors.
"My shot wasn't really there for me in the beginning," Kocur said. "I was just trying to play as hard as I could, and luckily I got to the basket a little bit in the second half."
ThunderRidge (20-6), which was after its first semifinals berth since 2009, had three players score in double figures. Kaileb Rodriguez
paced the Grizzlies with 13 points (seven rebounds), while Kendyl Grover
and Zach Rusk
each had 12.Rangeview (Aurora) 47, Cherry Creek (Greenwood Village) 46
When the brackets were released, not many considered Rangeview (21-4) a legitimate threat to make the state semifinals. No matter to the resilient Raiders, as they brushed off the doubters, as well as a rough first half, to advance to the Final Four.
"I'm happy right now, but it definitely didn't start out very well," sophomore Jeremiah Paige
talked to each other at halftime and got some things worked out."
Fourth-seeded Rangeview managed only 15 first-half points and looked out of rhythm against the No. 3 Bruins (18-8), but it pushed the pace in the second half to get back on track. The Raiders used an 18-5 run that started with 5 minutes remaining in the third and finally ended early in the fourth quarter. By that time they had a 43-34 they never relinquished despite some tense moments late.
"We knew we had to push the pace," said Page, who scored a team-best 16 points. "We were playing their game, and we knew we had to play our game to win."
Rangeview led 47-42 with 2 minutes remaining when it had a basket waived off by an offensive foul call. The Raiders bench received a technical foul for protesting the call, and Matt Ratiner
, who led all scorers with 17 points, made the awarded free throws. Austin Smith
then scored on the ensuing possession for the Bruins to make it a one-point game.
The Raiders committed a turnover on the next possession, and Cherry Creek took over with 58 seconds left. The Bruins ran down the clock to 31 seconds before calling a timeout, then down to 9 ticks before using their final timeout. Nick Gauna
's long three-point attempt fell short at the buzzer for Cherry Creek, which was after its first semifinals berth since 2006.Highlands Ranch 66, Mountain Vista (Highlands Ranch) 55
The second-seeded Falcons (23-3) are making a return trip to the semifinals after outlasting Continental League foe Mountain Vista for the second time this season.
University of Denver recruit Austin Haldorson
showcased why he is one of the state's best, scoring 19 points while collecting 13 rebounds and two blocks. The 6-foot-9 senior attacked the basket at will against the smallish Mountain Vista lineup with great success.
"I just wanted to get to the rim," Haldorson said. "I felt like some of my teammates were a
little bit nervous, so I wanted to get out there and break the ice."
Mountain Vista took Highlands Ranch to triple overtime in their first meeting, and it wasn't until late that the Falcons finally were able to pull away again. The score was tied with a little more than 5 minutes remaining before Brett Brady
iced matters for Highlands Ranch. He went 8-for-8 from the free-throw line in the final 2 minutes and hit all 11 of his free-throw attempts overall. Brady, a senior guard, also had 19 points.
"This is a great feeling getting to the Final Four again," Haldorson said. "We wanted to get back there so we can win a championship."
Mountain Vista ended its most successful season in school history at 18-9. Eric Nevins
scored a team-best 17 points for the Golden Eagles.Chaparral (Parker) 76, Columbine (Littleton) 61
After struggling in its previous two state games, top-seeded Chaparral (23-3) left no doubt in the finale by easily running past the Rebels. Chaparral will be playing in its first state semifinals.
Division I signees Josh Adams
(Wyoming) and Cory Calvert
(BYU) combined for 47 points. Chaparral shot 67 percent from the field in the first half when it built a 41-25 lead. Columbine had a couple of chances to get the lead under double digits late in the fourth quarter but could never make that final push.
"We've had trouble all year coming out slowly," said Adams, who scored 30 points and capped the game's scoring with a thundering dunk. "We wanted to come out and just show them that we had the No. 1 ranking, and we wanted to prove it. We got after it, took care of business.
"It definitely was a statement game for us."
Columbine (21-5), the Jefferson County League champion, was attempting to get back to the Final Four for the first time since 1998. Nick Carpinello
, a four-year starter for the Rebels, finished his career with 26 points, six rebounds and three assists.