BOULDER -- Perhaps no team knows better than the Fairview boys basketball team that the result of the season-opening game ultimately means little in the big picture.
Last year, the Knights opened the season with a 15-point loss at ThunderRidge. All they did after that was win 23 games in a row until they finally suffered their second, and final, loss of the season in the Class 5A state quarterfinals against Mountain Vista.
Of course, that doesn't mean that Fairview would have preferred to open the 2012-13 campaign with another loss in hopes of maybe recapturing similar karma. Instead, the new-look Knights used a solid defensive performance and a balanced offense to gain some revenge on ThunderRidge, opening the season with a 53-47 win at home on Thursday.
Beginning the season without their top three scorers from last year while waiting for Valor Christian transfer Austin Sparks to regain his eligibility after the 11th game, the Knights received points from eight different players and diffused a late ThunderRidge comeback attempt to seal the win.
"It's definitely a good confidence boost," Fairview senior Brent Wrapp said. "Either way, we had to learn from the game whether we won or we lost. But it's always good to start off with a win and learn from that more than learning from a loss."
Wrapp directed the Knights' offense, finishing with nine points and 10 rebounds, yet Fairview received key contributions from different players seemingly at every key juncture of the contest.
Junior Gabe Tierney, who finished with a team-leading 11 points, hit four of his first five shots while staking the Knights to an early lead. Miles MacKenzie recorded eight points, hitting four shots in a row early in the second half to help Fairview to take control. And while Matt Twist scored just six points, all of them were crucial -- his lone field goal at the end of the half gave Fairview a 20-18 lead at the break, and Twist knocked down four consecutive free throws in the final 27.1 seconds to help keep the Grizzlies at bay.
"Our goal was to fight on every possession, and I thought we did that," Fairview coach Frank Lee said. "We gave them a few good looks but not very many. I thought we defended very, very well and held them to one shot quite a bit. I just thought it was a great team effort. Scoring for us, we think it takes five guys to contribute to that."
Fairview steadily built a 10-point lead with 2 minutes, 49 seconds remaining before ThunderRidge stormed back. A quick 9-2 run by the Grizzlies suddenly trimmed Fairview's lead to 46-43 with 1:10 remaining, but a layup by Dakota Pilkington off a pass from Tierney, followed by two free throws from Twist, gave the Knights breathing room down the stretch.
"I think we played well together as a team," Tierney said. "We want to start off with everyone bringing as much heat as they can, and as we go through a game we want players to step up. That's what we did tonight. If one player gets down in a rut, we have other players that can support them."
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Fairview 53, ThunderRidge 47
At Fairview HS
Crawford 1 0-0 2, Hammonds 2 2-2 4, Rusk 5 7-7 17, O'Neill 3 0-0 7, Howell 1 3-4 5, Zarlin 1 0-0 3, Tiedgen 2 0-1 4, DeBoer 1 0-0 3, Pirog 1 0-0 2. Totals 16 12-14 47.
Tierney 5 0-0 11, Wrapp 3 3-6 9, Martin 0 1-4 1, McQueeney 3 1-2 7, MacKenzie 4 0-0 8, Pilkington 2 2-2 7, Schneider 0 0-0 0, Twist 1 4-4 6, Lane 2 0-0 4. Totals 20 11-18 53.
Score by quarters:
ThunderRidge 11 7 8 21 -- 47
Fairview 11 9 13 20 -- 53
3-point field goals -- ThunderRidge (3): DeBoer, Zarlin, O'Neill; Fairview (2): Tierney, Pilkington. Fouled out -- MacKenzie, McQueeney, Rusk.