HIGHLANDS RANCH — The Mead boys basketball team scheduled one heck of a meaningful game to ring in the New Year on Tuesday night.
Hitting the road, the Mavericks traveled to Highlands Ranch to take on Valor Christian. The contest was a rematch of last year's Great 8 in which the Eagles defeated the Mavericks and halted what would have been an unprecedented run short of the Final Four.
But in their search for revenge, the Mavericks saw a comeback bid end in a 69-61 loss and left Valor Christian High School with the familiar feeling of defeat they have been dealt all three times they have played the Eagles in their programs' histories.
"I was proud of the way we fought back," Mead head coach Darin Reese said. "We dug ourselves a pretty big hole but the guys did a pretty good job of adjusting at halftime and handling the pressure a little bit better. We didn't allow as much transition and got ourselves into a little bit of a rhythm. It's good for us to be in those types of games and hopefully we learn from some of the miscues on the offensive end.
"A lot of other teams could have packed it in but our guys, they battled back and got right back in the game."
Had it not been for a nightmarish first half, the Mavericks' first game back from the winter break could have ended in a much different result. Whether it was rust or youth or a lack of practice, Reese said he couldn't put his finger on the cause, but the Mavericks (5-4) turned the ball over on their first seven possessions of the game and were oustcored 24-10 in the second quarter. They trailed the Eagles (3-6) by 16 points at halftime.
Once they found their rhythm, the Mavericks outscored the Eagles 25-16 in the third quarter. They cut the Eagles' lead to four midway through the third quarter and pulled within two points with 3 minutes, 15 seconds left in the fourth but weren't ever able to tie the game or take the lead.
Junior forward Jax Wilke, who is averaging a team-high 17.5 points a game, led all scorers with 21 points and scored 15 points during the Mavericks' comeback attempt in the second half.
"When he is willing to bang around inside, he is very, very hard to guard," Reese said. "Not many guys can guard him one-on-one when he wants it in there. He was awesome in the fourth quarter. Credit our guards for getting him the basketball and him for working to get it. We expect that from him and, honestly, we'll expect more going forward."
Sophomore Nick Jacobs scored a season-high 20 points for the Mavericks, who will be back in action on Friday when the host Erie (4-4) in a Tri-Valley League game.
Valor Christian 69, Mead 61
At Valor Christian H.S.
Ayers 0 0-0 0, N. Jacobs 9 0-3 20, Maher 1 0-0 3, Wilhelm 1 2-2 4, Ward 1 0-0 2, Lee 0 0-0 0, Edwards 5 0-1 11, Wilke 9 2-4 21. Totals 26 4-10 61.
VALOR CHRISTIAN (3-6)
Randle6 6-6 19, McCaffrey 2 0-1 4, Foley 5 0-0 13, Michael 0 0-0 0, Shkapich 6 4-5 18, Costello 0 1-2 1, Bott 1 0-0 2, Smith 3 3-4 10, Sherman 0 0-0 0, Rosengarten 1 0-0 2. Totals 24 14-18 69.
Score by quarters:Mead 8 10 25 18 — 61
Valor Christian10 24 16 19 — 69
3-point field goals — Mead (5): N. Jacobs 2, Maher, Edwards, Wilke; Valor Christian (7): Foley 3, Shkapich 2, Randle, Smith. Total fouls — Mead 15, Valor Christian 16. Fouled out — Wilhelm.