LOUISVILLE — The Monarch boys basketball team limped into the playoffs with three losses in their last four regular season games, but there is always a certain level of comfort playing in front of the Monarch Militia.
Opening the Class 5A playoffs on Wednesday at home against Liberty may have brought even more positive vibes pre-game, what with the Coyotes having already beaten the Lancers in the Mountain Vista/Rock Canyon tournament early in the year.
But what the Coyotes might not have figured into the mix was that in that first contest, Liberty played without junior Moz Doria and senior Jeremiah Pruitt.
Though Pruitt came off the bench Wednesday, it was those two that proved to be the difference in Liberty's stunning 61-48 upset at the MoHi gym, combining for 37 points to lift their team into the second round.
It was a tough loss for the 31st-seeded Coyotes, who ended the season 12-12, but one that first-year head coach Josh Brenning said brought with it a lot of success.
"I think the boys need to be really excited about winning 12 games because we really were only expected to win about six," Brenning said. "In my opinion, they over-achieved and maximized their potential for this year.
"They put in the work and you know that they cared about this, so it's tough not to be proud of them even with tonight's loss."
Liberty, seeded 34th in the bracket and now 13-11, came up from Colorado Springs and won practically every important category in the game. They won the battle on the glass (33-23 in rebounds), had two fewer turnovers even though both teams took care of the ball relatively well, and beat Monarch at its own perimeter game with support from inside to boot.
Doria (15.7 point scoring average) was huge in the first and fourth quarters on his way to 16 points, but it was Pruitt who perhaps surprised the most and helped Liberty pull away in the second half.
On his way to 21 points, Pruitt (7.7 ppg) hit all four of his 3-point attempts and scored 10 points in the third quarter as LHS forged a 41-33 headed to the fourth frame. Monarch had tied the game at 29-29 with four and a half minutes left in the third, but in this contest the Lancers were able to match or out-do any MoHi run.
Keegan Johnson, who finished with 18 points to lead Monarch, did his best to drive the Coyotes back in the game and a five-point run by the junior got Monarch back to within 47-41 with 5:02 left.
But the Lancers were savvy with their attack, drawing fouls and keeping the Coyotes at bay. Liberty went to the line for 30 free throws to Monarch's 11, and the Lancers got 18 points at the stripe including 14 in the second half.
"I think our younger guys are going to learn to come into every game knowing they need to play hard, not just expecting to win and looking ahead," said Roy Grigsby, as senior who had 11 points and seven rebounds. "You have to focus on the now. We gave up second-chance points. We didn't box well at all and that killed us."
"Our last two weeks of the season, we just haven't been able to get over that hump and today was an example," Brenning said. "We fought to tie it up ... and we just couldn't get a stop."
Tylor Trinh had 16 points for Monarch, which as a team hoisted up 28 3-point attempts (nine makes).
"We live and die by the three, and tonight unfortunately it just wasn't good," Grigsby said.
Liberty 61, Monarch 48
At Monarch HS
Burns 1 0-0 3, Wilburn 0 2-4 2, Kirk 3 0-2 6, Doria 5 6-9 16, K. Bohuslavsky 2 4-6 10, Parry 0 0-0 0, Pruitt 7 3-4 21, Groe 0 0-0 0, Kizewski 0 0-1 0, Bukel 0 0-0 0, S. Bohuslavsky 0 3-4 3, Peachey 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 18-30 61.
MacIntyre 1 0-0 3, Stimac 0 0-1 0, J. Grigsby 0 0-0 0, Schmanski 0 0-0 0, Weiler 0 0-0 0, Johnson 6 5-8 18, Storm 0 0-0 0, Trinh 5 2-2 16, R. Grigbsy 4 0-0 11. Totals 16 7-11 48.
Score by quarters:Liberty 16 7 18 20 — 61
Monarch 10 6 17 15 — 48
3-point field goals — Liberty (7): Pruitt 4, K. Bohuslavsky 2, Burns; Monarch (9): Trinh 4, Grigsby 3, Johnson, MacIntyre. Fouled out — MacIntyre, Trinh.