BOULDER — Last time, with the Fairview and Monarch boys basketball teams entrenched in a similarly down-to-the-wire affair, there was nothing Austin Sparks could do about it.
The Fairview center was in street clothes, one day from becoming eligible after transferring from Valor Christian. Monarch won by one.
So, with the teams tied midway through the fourth quarter Thursday night, Sparks made up for lost time. His clutch play in the latter stages buoyed Fairview to a 60-51 win that outright clinched the Class 5A Front Range League for the host Knights.
“Seeing your team lose on three shots that should have went in really gets to you,” Sparks said of Monarch’s 61-60 win last month. “It was nice to get these guys by nine.”
While many clutch plays down the stretch can be noted as Fairview (20-3, 15-1) outscored the Coyotes 16-7 in the fourth, one clearly stood out. That was Sparks’ two-handed dunk off a feed from Trevor McQueeney, which made it 50-47 midway through the fourth and nearly brought the high-spirited house down.
Fairview led the rest of the way.
“It felt incredible,” Sparks said. “They’d been doubling me all night. They finally let me go and I was able to give our team the big energy boost that we needed.”
The 6-foot-7, University of South Dakota-bound senior finished with a glitzy line of 21 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots. Point guard Brent Wrapp, who scored 36 in the first meeting, controlled the flow and contributed an efficient 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Monarch (18-5, 13-3) was within 54-51 with 2:14 to play, but Sparks blocked a put-back attempt by Jay MacIntyre and scored on the other end to effectively seal the deal. MacIntyre was stellar for Monarch with 23 points — Coyotes coach Ken Niven termed it his best game of the season — and sharpshooting Ben Beauchamp added 17, including four 3-pointers.
“Their patience was outstanding for most the game,” Fairview coach Frank Lee said. “I thought we could have had a bigger lead at the end of the first half, but we had four empty possessions and that kept it at four. Then they came out in the third quarter and played really well.”
Lee lauded the shooting of Beauchamp and the hustle of MacIntyre. He hinted that the Coyotes will be a tough out in the playoffs. Postseason brackets will be released Sunday.
“You end up going one of two ways after a loss like this,” Niven said. “You let it affect the way you play and you go into a little funk, or you man up and it makes you better. We have a choice right now. We can man up and have a great attitude or we can mope.”
From what Niven knows about his group, he believes the Coyotes will choose the “man up” route.
Fairview threatened to blow Monarch out of the water early, when eight quick points by McQueeney led to a quick 10-2 lead. But the Coyotes remained patient and unflappable, and soon Beauchamp and MacIntyre went into attack mode.
Beauchamp’s four-point play put the Coyotes ahead 42-40 late in the third. Fairview, though, limited the Coyotes to one field goal in the fourth.
“I have confidence in every guy on the team, and we have confidence in each other to make a run in the tourney,” said MacIntyre, whose team is 13-3 since his arrival from California. “Hopefully we’ll go as far as we can. A state championship would be cool.”
Fairview has been in postseason mode ever since the loss to Monarch, Lee said. The Knights have reeled off 12 straight wins since then.
They also have a fired-up Sparks, who labeled Thursday one of the highlights of his playing days.
“This is as good as it gets,” he said. “I’ve never been in a gym this loud.”
Follow Paul on Twitter: @PaulWillis21
Fairview 60, Monarch 51
At Fairview HS
MONARCH (18-5, 13-3)
Kirkman 1 0-0 2, Krason 1 7-8 9, Lawson 0 0-0 0, Beauchamp 5 3-3 17, MacIntyre 7 7-9 23, Billingsley 0 0-0 0, Weaver 0 0-0 0, Fredricksmeyer 0 0-0 0, Stewart 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 17-20 51.
FAIRVIEW (20-3, 15-1)
Wrapp 6 2-3 15, Tierney 1 2-4 4, McQueeney 3 2-2 10, MacKenzie 0 0-0 0, Sparks 6 9-10 21, Lane 1 0-1 2, Martin 4 0-0 8, Pilkington 0 0-0 0, Waters 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 15-20 60.
Score by quarters:
Monarch 14 14 16 7 — 51
Fairview 14 18 12 16 — 60
3-point field goals — Monarch (6): Beauchamp 4, MacIntyre 2; Fairview (3): McQueeney 2, Wrapp. Total fouls — Monarch 18, Fairview 16. Fouled out — None. Technical fouls — None.