Jeremy Papasso/Daily Camera
BOULDER — Dakota Pilkington didn’t start for Fairview on Wednesday night and he isn’t one of the Knights’ key scorers, but he was certainly riding high — literally and figuratively — after FHS’ cardiac kids victory over ThunderRidge.
After the senior drained a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the left baseline that gave Fairview a 55-52 win over the Grizzlies, Pilkington was mobbed by FHS fans and even got lifted up and carried by an elated teammate.
The fact that the Knights earned a berth in the 5A state quarterfinals was an indelible memory in and of itself, but for a senior to do what Pilkington did in his final game on the FHS court was straight out of a storybook.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Pilkington, who scored five points on Wednesday, a little more than his 3.2 points-per-game average this season for Fairview.
For the second straight home playoff contest, the Knights won after trailing by four in the fourth quarter. This time, a dunk by senior Austin Sparks with 3:46 left started Fairview on a 9-2 run to close out the game.
After going 14-0 at home this season and winning 14 consecutive games overall, the second-seeded Knights (22-3) will face fifth-seeded Legend (20-6) in the Great Eight Friday at the Denver Coliseum. Legend, led by former Broomfield coach Kevin Boley, edged top-seeded Chatfield 51-49 on Wednesday.
“It’s pretty crazy,” FHS senior Brent Wrapp said. “Last year we lost in the Sweet 16 (at home), and it kind of felt like the same thing tonight. Then Dakota stepped up and hit a nice 3-pointer. It was clutch. He has ice in his veins.”
After Sparks scored six consecutive points to put Fairview up 52-50 with 1:21 remaining, he blocked his second shot of the period to give the Knights possession. But a costly turnover led to ThunderRidge tying the game with 45 seconds left on a hoop by Zach Rusk.
After milking the clock, Wrapp was in an isolation situation and drove to the basket. When the defense collapsed, he found Pilkington in the left corner, and the senior made the most of his opportunity to be the hero.
“It’s my senior year; I just tried to give it everything I had,” said Pilkington, who called it the biggest shot of his life. “It could (have been) my last game.”
It turns out Wrapp had not only given Pilkington an assist on the game-winner, he gave him one during a timeout earlier in the fourth quarter when things were looking down for the Knights.
“Brent came in the huddle and told us to get after it,” Pilkington relayed. “‘Four minutes to go, you’ve just got to give it your all.’ So we just kind of let go of the pressure and played ball.”
ThunderRidge, which defeated Fairview in the 2008 Sweet 16 in a similarly close game, was in disbelief after Wednesday’s contest. The Grizzlies ended their season at 18-7, with two of those losses coming against FHS. All of their in-state defeats have been to teams seeded first or second in the state tournament.
“We’re crushed,” coach Joe Ortiz said. “… If anything, maybe I’m still in shock a little bit.”
Fairview led by 10 points in the first half and by nine in the second, but both times ThunderRidge rallied. And the Knights looked tight when they trailed by four in the middle of the fourth, but they loosened up down the stretch.
“Sometimes things turn your way,” FHS coach Frank Lee said. “We just stayed with it. I’m just really proud of our kids, and we get to play another day.”
As usual, both Wrapp and Sparks came up big for Fairview as they shared game-high scoring honors with 18 points each. But it was Pilkington who hit the biggest shot of all. Ironically, that game-winner was a 3-pointer after FHS didn’t make any treys in its playoff opener last Saturday.
“We trust everybody on the team,” Wrapp said. “I know if I kick it out, somebody is going to knock it down. Dakota did that tonight.”
Fairview will be going to the state quarterfinals for the third time in the last five years. The Knights lost in the semifinals in 2009 and in the finals in 2010, both in overtime.
Fairview 55, ThunderRidge 52
At Fairview HS
Marucci 4 3-4 14, Hammonds 2 0-0 5, O’Neill 2 0-0 4, Rusk 4 1-2 10, Howell 8 0-0 16, Zarlin 1 0-0 3. Totals 21 4-6 52.
Wrapp 6 5-7 18, Tierney 1 0-2 2, McQueeney 4 0-0 10, MacKenzie 1 0-0 2, Sparks 8 2-2 18, Martin 0 0-0 0, Pilkington 2 0-0 5. Totals 22 7-11 55.
Score by quarters:
ThunderRidge 10 13 17 12 — 52
Fairview 18 7 15 15 — 55
3-point field goals — ThunderRidge (6): Marucci 3, Zarlin, Hammonds, Rusk; Fairview (4): McQueeney 2, Wrapp, Pilkington. Total fouls — ThunderRidge 12, Fairview 9. Fouled out — none. Technical fouls — none.