FORT MORGAN — There was a moment on Saturday afternoon when the Shining Mountain faithful held their collective breath.
Early in the third quarter, one of their senior captains and leading scorer, Gray Hill went down after twisting his ankle in their Class 1A Region state qualifying game against Front Range Baptist at Fort Morgan High School.
At the time, it was a 27-24 lead for the Lions, who were looking to return to the state tournament for the first time in four years.
"I think you could tell there was a little sense that we wanted to pick up the intensity and not let it be his last game," Lions coach Sean Lynch said.
Shining Mountain rallied around their teammate, starting making shots, and by the time he re-entered late in the third quarter had increased their lead to 42-36.
Another 9-0 to start the fourth quarter all but put the game away and helped the Lions earn a trip to the Budweiser Events Center next week with a 65-51 win over the Falcons.
"A lot of these seniors were freshmen when we went the last time," said Lynch, who team will await the fate when the CHSAA releases the new seeded bracket on Sunday. "But now this is their ship and they are excited to see what they can do."
The frenetic pace didn't cause the Lions, and their seven-man rotation, to deviate from what they like to do on the offensive end. Their ability to move the ball around and find the open man was uncanny and precise.
Combined with the fact they started to hit their shots in the third period with just five turnovers the entire game, put the independent Falcons on their collective heels.
Gavin Edwards picked up the scoring slack in the third quarter, finding his range from beyond the arc and scoring 12 of his game-high 20 points,
"It's fun when they start falling," Edwards said. "In that second half we just started playing more our kind of ball."
Hill, who should be ready to go when the tournament starts on Thursday, finished with two points. The rest of the Lions pulled their weight on both ends, especially on offense. In addition to Edwards' 20, Shining Mountain got 12 each from Luke Feigal and Gopal Zubaedi. Leo Mason came off the bench to score nine.
The Lions don't care who they see in Loveland next week and know they are going in with a head of steam.
"We are pumped to go to Budweiser," Edwards said. "Personally, I'm not to worried about (who we play), we are just going to go and play Shining Mountain ball and see what happens."
Shining Mountain 65, Front Range Baptist 51
At Fort Morgan
FRONT RANGE BAPTIST (15-8)
Jack Risma 0 0-0 0, Noah Stein 0 3-4 3, Stephen Stallings 3 2-2 9, Chad Bates 4 2-4 10, Austin Bates 2 4-4 9, Ben Moon 0 0-0 0, Claude Korkis 0 0-0 0, Luke Sumner 4 0-0 11, Deric Woods 3 2-2 9. Totals 16 13-16 51.
SHINING MOUNTAIN (21-2)
Gray Hill 1 0-0 2, Luke Feigal 4 2-5 12, Nathan Fairmont 2 2-6 6, Gavin Edwards 6 3-4 20, Leo Mason 4 1-2 9, Jordan Cherin 2 0-3 4, Gopal Zubaedi 5 1-3 12. Totals 24 9-23 65.
Score by quarters:Front Range Baptist 14 10 14 13 — 51 Shining Mountain 15 12 18 20 — 65
3-point field goals — Front Range Baptist (6): Sumner 3, Stallings, A. Bates, Woods; Shining Mountain (8): Edwards 5, Feigal 2, Zubaedi. Total fouls — Front Range Baptist 18; Shining Mountain 17. Fouled out — Sumner; Fairmont.