BOULDER -- After missing two free throws with 44 seconds to play on Friday night, it appeared that Fairview point guard Brent Wrapp had given Fort Collins just the opening it needed to tie the Front Range League basketball showdown and send it into overtime.
A little more than 30 seconds and some sleight of hand later, though, the Knights senior had stomped out the Lambkins' hope with a steal and fastbreak layup that gave the Knights a 54-49 lead.
The Lambkins' Chase Thurgood answered with the 3-pointer they needed at the buzzer, but at that point it was too late as the Knights triumphed 54-52 on their home floor.
In a battle of two of the conference front runners, neither team was at its sharpest. The Knights shot just 32 percent (16 for 50) from the field, and neither team shot free throws particularly well.
But with the victory, the Knights (14-3, 9-1) stayed on track for a season-ending showdown with Monarch for the league title.
"That's how it is," Wrapp said. "... You've got to find a way to grind out ugly wins."
Fairview looked sluggish to start both halves as the Lambkins (9-8, 6-4) stormed out to leads in both. But both times the Knights rallied.
After a 10-0 second-quarter run by FHS led to a 28-25 Knights lead at halftime, Fort Collins scored the first eight points of the third quarter to go up 33-28.
But Gabe Tierney, who paced FHS with 13 points, scored six in a row to answer the Lambkins' burst, and the Knights never trailed again.
"I saw that my team was driving a lot," Tierney said. "(Wrapp) and the rest of my team got the ball to me well and saw me."
As Fort Collins tried to rally in the fourth quarter, Tierney came through in the clutch again, scoring on a backdoor layup to make it 48-44 and then draining a pair of free throws with 2:17 to play to give the Knights a six-point edge.
Fort Collins -- a free-wheeling group featuring plenty of size and quickness -- got to within 52-49 on a 3-pointer by 6-foot-8 Toby Van Ry with 47 seconds to go before the final dramatics by Wrapp.
"I thought we responded well at the end," FHS coach Frank Lee said. "It's good to have close games and have our kids come out on top."
Wrapp finished with 12 points and six rebounds in addition to several assists, while center Austin Sparks also added 12 points for the Knights.
Six-2 guard Ryan French scored a game-high 24 points for Fort Collins, including 16 in the first half. But he was bottled up in the fourth quarter, mustering only a free throw in the final frame.
For the Knights, the victory goes a long way in getting them to the regular-season finale with Monarch in position to play for the league crown.
Four of FHS' five opponents leading up to the Coyotes reside in the bottom half of the Front Range League standings, with rival Boulder -- which pulled off a double-overtime road win over Loveland Friday -- providing the only real potential speed bump.
Monarch (14-3, 9-1) beat Fairview last month, but visits FHS on Feb. 22.
"I feel like with these close games it's really going to help us later in the (season)," Tierney said. "... When Monarch comes, we're going to be ready."
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Fairview 54, Fort Collins 52
At Fairview HS
FORT COLLINS (9-8, 6-4)
Thurgood 2 0-0 6, Pond 0 0-0 0, French 8 6-11 24, Deeter 1 0-0 2, Von Nieda 1 2-2 4, Duggan 4 0-0 9, Hunt 0 0-0 0, Van Ry 3 0-0 7. Totals 19 8-13 52.
FAIRVIEW (14-3, 9-1)
Wrapp 4 4-8 12, Tierney 4 5-6 13, McQueeney 2 0-0 6, Lane 2 0-0 5, Martin 1 2-2 4, Pilkington 0 0-0 0, MacKenzie 0 2-2 2, Sparks 3 6-10 12. Totals 16 19-28 54.
Score by quarters:
Fort Collins 14 11 14 13 -- 52
Fairview 8 20 14 12 -- 54
3-point field goals -- Fort Collins (6): Thurgood 2, French 2, Duggan, Van Ry; Fairview (3): McQueeney 2, Lane. Total fouls -- Fort Collins 21, Fairview 13. Fouled out -- None. Technicals -- None.