FORT COLLINS — As Braxton Bertolette goes, so go the Fossil Ridge SaberCats.
Fairview knew that. Heck, the rest of the Front Range League, the state of Colorado and even a team in Las Vegas knew that.
And for a half on Tuesday evening, the Knights bodied him up, frustrated him and held him to just four points.
But you can only keep a good player down so long, and in the second half, Bertolette scored 21 of his 25 points and helped the SaberCats pull away for a 59-45 win to set up a winner-take-all season finale on Thursday night at Boulder for the league title.
"We did some good things, even in the second half, but at least we held him to his average," said Fairview coach Patrick Burke, whose team fell to 8-14 overall and 4-7 inside the league with one game left in the regular season on Thursday night at home against Rocky Mountain.
"We played a little more physical than we have been playing and it turned into a few fouls, but it was good to see our guys get in there and battle."
The trio of Will Kaufman, Calvin Mooz and Soroush Khadem shadowed Bertolette all over the court in the first half and made him work for every clean look he got. Fortunately for the Knights, Bertolette — who hit 16 3's in a game against Western (Las Vegas) in December — was 0-for-6 from long range in the first half.
The Knights hardly took advantage on their own offensive end. They couldn't get much to drop and had a hard time getting anything to 6-foot-10 post Frank Ryder — who faced double- and triple-teams most of the evening.
Fairview's 19-16 halftime lead quickly disappeared in the third quarter. It was a perfect storm for Fossil Ridge, which was getting stops on one end and transition lay-ups on the other. A 17-5 run sparked by 11 Bertolette points saw switched the balance and feel of the game rather quickly.
"They got a couple of easy outlet and go buckets and I think that is what got them their lead," Burke said. "We did a good job of shutting the paint down but near the end of the third quarter is when they got a little penetration and we kind of opened up and gave them some lanes."
Bertolette, who is also a 95 percent free throw shooter, went 8-for-8 from the line en route to his 25 points. He also got help from Jackson Everhart, who finished with 15 points.
Fairview was paced by Ryder's 15. Jake Pykkonen came off the bench and finished with nine points on three fourth quarter 3-pointers.
Burke knows his team needs one last solid performance on Thursday's senior night to solidify their spot in the Class 5A playoff field.
"We've got to get one more and it kind of depends o what some other teams do, but we are focused on Rocky Mountain at this point," he said. "If we win that one we should be good. It will be the last opportunity for our seniors to play on our home court, the one they've played on for four years, and in front of our fans."
Fossil Ridge 59, Fairview 45
At Fossil Ridge
FAIRVIEW (8-14, 4-7)
Cole Heisner 2 0-0 4, Trent Carson 1 2-2 5, Soroush Khadem 3 0-0 6, Sam Grad 1 0-0 2, Jaxson Whittle 1 0-0 3, Calvin Mooz 1 0-0 2, Frank Ryder 6 2-3 14, Mitch Tyse 0 0-0 0, Will Kaufman 0 0-0 0, Jake Pykkonen 3 0-0 9. Totals 18 4-5 45.
FOSSIL RIDGE (16-6, 9-2)
Braxton Bertolette 8 8-8 25, Cole Schilling 1 0-0 2, Josh Grove 3 0-0 7, Mike Schilling 2 0-0 4, Jackson Everhart 5 4-6 15, Nick Girardi 0 0-0 0, Dan Van Wyhe 0 0-0 0, Garrett Schmidt 1 1-2 4, Cam DeHart 0 0-0 0, Colby Ripsam 0 2-4 2. Totals 20 15-20 59.
Score by quarters:Fairview 7 12 10 16 — 45
Fossil Ridge 8 8 19 24 — 59
3-point field goals — Fairview (5): Pykkonen 3, Carson, Whittle; Fossil Ridge (4) Bertolette, Grove, Everhart, Schmidt. Total fouls — Fairview 18; Fossil Ridge 7. Fouled out — Carson.