FORT COLLINS — For those of you that think that a parochial rivalry isn't heated have never attended one of those games before.
For years, both Faith Baptist and their arch nemesis from Front Range Baptist have toiled behind the scenes, not under the umbrella of the state association.
That all changed this year and both schools, while both Class 1A independent's — and under a one year CHSAA probation period before things become official — have a little bit more to play for than just bragging rights.
On Friday night, Faith Baptist got the better of the Falcons 58-47 and in doing so may have done themselves some good going into the final month of the season, that will include their first ever district tournament and chance to play for a state berth.
"As a coach, I actually work to down-play this rivalry, because there are times when players have gotten a little over-hyped and things have gotten a little too tense on the floor," said Pioneers coach Jared Gunderson, whose team improved to 8-2. "But the reality of it is that they are a rival and a team our seniors couldn't even play with during their freshman and sophomore years."
After a first period of feeling each other out, the pace and play picked up in the second, especially for the Pioneers. The did a better job of protecting the ball on their own end and used their quickness and length to cause problems on the defensive end.
Gunderson's team turned the Falcons over nine times in the first half and scored in big spurts in the second quarter. The Pioneers, down 12-11 after eight minutes, went on a 13-3 run to open the second to create some separation. Junior guard Clayton Eldred and both Ivan Hoogland and Brandon Langridge did most of the damage during the run.
"Throughout practice we told ourselves defense and rebounding," said the 6-foot-5 Langridge, who came off the bench to lead the Pioneers with 14 points. "It obviously showed in the game."
The lead ballooned to 16 points going to the fourth quarter, but like all good rivalries, the homestanding Falcons didn't just fold up shop. They turned up the pressure on the boards and got the Pioneers into foul trouble and slowly mounted their comeback.
With under a minute to play, Front Range Baptist had cut the lead to 53-48 on the strength of their best player Chad Bates.
Gunderson, whose team has been on the wrong side of the rivalry for six of the past seven years, called a timeout with 51 second left to restore order.
"We had put ourselves in a good position and turned the ball over in some tough spots, but it was till a two possession game and I had the confidence we could finish it out," he said.
And they did. On a night, when three of his players fouled out, including statistical leader Caleb Pene, Gunderson got the ball in the capable hands of Eldred. The southpaw iced the game from the line.
"It's a tough opponent and sometime things are a little chippy and sometimes that's how rivalries are," said Eldred, who finished with 13 points. "I feel like if we keep our effort up, we have a chance."
Bates led all scorers with 18 in the losing effort for the Falcons.
Faith Baptist 57, Front Range Baptist 48
At Front Range Baptist
FAITH BAPTIST (8-2)
Clayton Eldred 5 3-6 13, Branden Smith 1 4-6 6, Timothy Eldred 1 0-2 2, Nicholas Wyrwas 2 2-3 6, Caleb Pene 3 0-0 6, Ivan Hoogland 5 0-1 10, Jonathan Wyrwas 0 0-0 0, Brandon Langridge 6 2-4 14. Totals 23 11-22 57.
FRONT RANGE BAPTIST (9-4)
Jack Risma 1 0-1 2, Noah Stein 2 2-5 6, Stephen Stallings 1 1-2 3, Chad Bates 5 7-12 18, Austin Bates 1 3-5 6, Ben Moon 0 0-0 0, Luke Sumner 2 0-0 4, Deric Woods 4 1-4 9. Totals 16 14-29 48.
Score by quarters:Faith Baptist 11 16 18 12 — 57
Front Range Baptist 12 7 10 19 — 48
3-point field goals — Faith Baptist (0): None; Front Range Baptist (2): C. Bates, A. Bates. Total fouls — Faith Baptist 28; Front Range Baptist 22. Fouled out — N. Wyrwas, C. Pene, Hoogland; Stein, Sumner. Technical fouls — C. Pene.