GREELEY — The Mead Mavericks were not wowed by the situation.
The core group had played in some of the loudest and most raucous gyms the state has had to offer over the last few seasons, so walking into Northridge for their Sweet 16 game against the a Grizzlies team that was in unchartered territory felt like just another contest ... one that was leaning in their favor.
Playing with the poise of a team that had bigger aspirations, the Mavericks built a 10 point lead with under four minutes to play, watched it evaporate to two points with 1:33 left and then made the plays down the stretch to eliminate the Northern League champs 63-61 and advance to the Class 4A Great 8 on Saturday at Valor Christian.
"We showed some toughness and grit and I am certainly proud of the effort down the stretch," said Mead coach Darin Reese, whose No. 9 Mavs improved to 21-4. "That's the sign of a mature, senior-led team."
Eighth-seeded Northridge finishes with the identical 21-4 record.
In a game that through three quarters saw neither side gain much separation, it was a matter of who would make a run when it mattered most.
To start the fourth, Mead steadily built its biggest advantage of the night with a 13-7 run to go up 60-50 with 3:25 to play.
"We just kind of slowed down a little bit at that point and let them knock down a couple of 3's and that hurt us a little bit," senior Alex Sandstrom said.
A dangerous proposition against a Grizzlies team that has shown a propensity for hitting big shots, especially from beyond the arc.
Two minutes later and with a crowd — one that would have made the fire marshall cringe — in full throat, Northridge's 8-0 run had cut the Mavs lead to 60-58.
After back-to-back turnovers from each side, Mead senior Michael Ward made the biggest basket of the night with 34 second left. After a dribble drive to five feet, Ward turned and his defender, who assumed he was going to kick it out, backed off and he simply laid it in.
"We came in and knew kind of what they wanted to do and we worked hard this week," said Sandstrom, who finished with 14 points.
Ward finished with a game-high 15 points and Michael Rice — who along with Daniel Cloke did a wonderful job on the Grizzlies' Oscar Maldonado defensively — finished with 12.
Sixth-man Jax Wilke scored all 11 of his points in the second quarter.
"(Wilke) does a real good job of moving without the basketball," Reese said, "And with our guard getting into the lane, we are always looking for him and he gave us a huge spark."
Maldonado led the balanced Northridge attack with 14 points. Devin Smith added 13, Avery Palma had 12 and Andrew Vigil had 11.
Mead will travel to Valor Christian in Highlands Ranch on Saturday night for a 7 p.m. tip-off against the top-seeded Eagles (21-4), who beat the Mavs 79-53 on their home court on Jan. 3.
"It was a six point game at the half and they extended from there. They create a lot of match-up issues," Reese said. "They are No. 1 for a reason, but I think it is a good thing that we have seen them and no doubt we will be ready.
"We will have to play really well, but I feel with the maturity of this group that they will go in with the right mindset."
MEAD 63, NORTHRIDGE 61
Cameron Cheung 0 2-2 2, Anthony Brin 0 0-0 0, Jax Wilke 5 1-1 11, Michael Ward 7 0-1 15, Derek Edwards 2 0-0 4, Alex Sandstrom 6 1-1 14, Michael Rice 4 2-2 12, Daniel Cloke 1 3-5 5. Totals 25 9-12 63.
Elijah Llamas 1 0-0 2, Nykolas Lange 2 2-2 7, Andrew Vigil 4 2-2 11, K.P. Werner 1 0-0 2, Devin Smith 4 5-7 13, Avery Palma 4 1-2 12, Oscar Maldonado 5 1-1 14. Totals 21 11-14 61.
Score by quarters:Mead 13 20 14 16 — 63
Northridge 12 17 14 18 — 61
3-point field goals — Mead (4): Rice 2, Ward, Sandstrom; Northridge (8): Palma 3, Maldonado 3, Lange, Vigil. Total fouls — Mead 13, Northridge 12.