When the second quarter ended, the Fairview boys basketball team was in great position to advance to the Great 8 in the Class 5A bracket. In less than three minutes at the start of the third quarter Cherry Creek dashed those dreams.
The No. 24-seeded Bruins, cold from the outside in the first 16 minutes, couldn't miss out of the intermission and carried that momentum to a 76-67 win in the Sweet 16 on Wednesday night. The No. 8 Knights (19-6) had no answers for Cherry Creek's suddenly deadly outside shooting.
"It's tough. They got that run right coming out of the half, hit three 3s and a two and we just couldn't get back," Fairview coach Patrick Burke said. "They kept hitting 3s and that was the difference."
It was a stunning twist after the Bruins missed six of their eight 3-point attempts in the first half. Fairview's defense was solid, but it couldn't contain Cherry Creek after halftime. The Bruins led 36-35 at the break but hit their first four shots of the third quarter, including a trio of 3-pointers.
Two of them were by Julian Hammond III, who finished with a game-high 25 points and five 3-pointers. The Bruins finished 8-of-11 from long range in the second half.
"Four in a row after they weren't making almost anything," said junior Jalen Page, who led the Knights with 21 points. "We kept on fighting. They're a good team, they just kept hitting shots."
Cherry Creek was hitting shots but Fairview kept trying to get back into it. After the initial barrage to start the third quarter, senior Mark Dolan hit a shot and two free throws and Page scored to make it 48-43.
The Bruins, however, finished the third quarter on a 16-7 run and led by 14 heading into the fourth.
"It was very frustrating because they went from not making any shots to making all of them," Page said.
The Knights had one last surge. Page scored the first three baskets of the fourth to get Fairview within 64-56 with 6:12 left. After five straight points from Cherry Creek the Knights went on a 7-1 run to make it 70-63.
Page was fouled on a drive with 2:03 left but his left calf cramped up and he missed both free throws. The Bruins were able to close it out after that.
"I'm proud of our guys," Burke said. "They didn't quit, they kept fighting and fighting and fighting and scratching and clawing, we just couldn't get over that initial hump."
It was a frustrating end for the Front Range League champs but the future is bright.
"It hurts but it's going to be a real motivation for next year," Page said.
Cherry Creek 76, Fairview 67
At Fairview HS
Hammond III 8 4-7 25, Cole 7 4-6 19, Purchase 5 1-3 12, LeFebre 2 3-6 8, Hausman 2 1-2 6, Hand 1 1-2 4, Mitchell 1 0-0 2. Totals 26 14-26 76..
Page 9 3-5 21, Nichols 5 2-2 13, O'Neill 2 6-8 11, Dolan 2 2-2 7, Carter 1 3-5 5, Atkinson 2 0-1 4, Blackburn 1 0-0 2, Gann 0 2-2 2, Williams 0 2-2 2. Totals 22 20-27 67.
Score by quarters:Cherry Creek 14 22 28 12 — 76
3-point field goals - Cherry Creek (10): Hammond III 5, LeFebre, Cole, Purchase, Hausman, Hand; Fairview (3): O'Neill, Dolan, Nichols. Total Fouls - Cherry Creek 23, Fairview 22. Fouled out - Purchase, Blackburn, O'Neill.