BOULDER — This year's Fairview boys basketball team sure is full of surprises.
After losing five of their first eight games, the Knights rebounded to finish the regular season on a 13-2 run and found a way to win the Front Range League regular season championship. In the first round of the Class 5A state tournament on Wednesday night, the No. 20-seeded Knights won 75-61 at home against the No. 45 Pine Creek Eagles.
Coming down the home stretch of a winter that saw the Knights flounder in its beginning, they have now claimed their first playoff win since the 2013-14 season.
"We came in with momentum from winning the Front Range League and we all really started clicking in the second half tonight," Knights sophomore Mark O'Neill said. "We really played with confidence. We had a rough start but we all came together and we're getting hot at the right time."
The Knights (17-7) have just four seniors on their roster and Wednesday's tournament victory over the Eagles (9-15) was the first for all of the current players. Their excitement was matched by a raucous student section that stormed the court following the win.
While Pine Creek's Payton Westfall hit seven of the Eagles' 10 3-pointers, six different Knights made at least one long ball and the Knights shot 41 free throws, of which they made 27. Sophomore Jalen Page, who led the Knights with 16 points, went 12 for 15 at the charity stripe.
Though the Knights were ahead 33-29 at halftime, the lead changed hands six times in the third quarter before they pulled ahead by seven to start the fourth. O'Neill catching fire at the both ends of the floor was the catalyst for their second-half run and the Knights pulled away by outscoring the Eagles 25-18 in the final frame with O'Neill leading the way.
"I was just trying to be more aggressive and attack," O'Neill said. "We all started to be more aggressive as the game went on and we did a great job of getting to the free-throw line."
O'Neill finished with 14 points, including nine in the fourth quarter, and Knights junior Ashton Nichols scored 12. Three other Knights - Andrew Cousin, Atul Raguveer and Henry Blackburn - scored eight points.
The Knights hit the road to will play No. 13 Smoky Hill (16-7) in the second round on Saturday. A veteran club from a highly competitive Centennial League, Smoky Hill reached the Sweet 16 in last year's state tournament. That game will start at noon.
Fairview 75, Pine Creek 61
At Fairview H.S.
PINE CREEK (9-15)
Rapier 1 1-2 4, Wilkinson 3 4-6 11, Lofy 3 1-1 8, Sabatello 0 3-4 3, Hatchell 0 0-0 0, Ziak 0 0-0 0, Bishop 0 0-0 0, Yeager 4 2-2 10, Westfall 7 2-2 23, Horton 0 0-0 0, Pham 0 0-0 0, Gallentine 0 2-2 2. Totals 11 15-19 61.
Cousin 3 0-0 8, Blackburn 2 3-6 8, Atkinson 0 1-2 1, Page 2 12-15 16, O'Neill 3 7-14 14, Dineen 0 1-2 1, Raguveer 3 0-0 8, Nichols 4 3-3 12, Dolan 2 0-0 5, Erickson 1 0-0 2. Totals 20 27-41 75.
Score by quarters:Pine Creek 16131418—61
3-point field goals — Pine Creek (10): Westfall 7, Wilkinson, Lofy; Fairview (8): Cousin 2, Raguveer 2, Dolan, Nichols, Blackburn, O'Neill. Total fouls — Pine Creek 30, Fairview 19. Fouled out — Wilkinson, Sabatello. Technical fouls — Pine Creek bench.