LOUISVILLE — When the Fossil Ridge boys basketball team strolled through the doors of the Monarch gymnasium Tuesday night, the Coyotes understood what the SaberCats carried in tow.
They possessed the state’s only unbeaten record, a No. 1 designation in the AP media poll and a No. 19 national ranking in MaxPreps.com‘s Freeman Rankings.
Monarch hoped to send the SaberCats’ back to Fort Collins with all of that in jeopardy, and nearly did, before succumbing 49-46 in a Class 5A Front Range League showdown.
“I’m proud of that effort,” said Monarch senior Ben Beauchamp, whose potential tying 3-pointer from well beyond the arc was short in the waning seconds. “Win or lose, if we come out and play like that, you can’t be too upset. They’re a hell of a team and we left a few plays on the floor.”
Some might witness the score and express surprise that No. 6 Monarch was so close, but in reality, Monarch is a few plays away from matching the SaberCats’ lofty record. The Coyotes (13-3, 7-2) have endured two overtime losses on the road and their three losses have come by a combined eight points.
Accustomed to obliterating teams to bits, Fossil Ridge (16-0, 9-0) had all it could handle in the upset-minded Coyotes. Monarch took a brief lead in the fourth quarter when Beauchamp nailed a long 3-pointer to tie it and Sam Fredricksmeyer scored a transition layup to make it 40-38.
But despite a dearth of down-to-the-wire games, Fossil Ridge exhibited poise. The sizable and disciplined SaberCats, with only one non-senior on the roster, countered with a 3-pointer from Sawyer Novak to retake the lead, then answered two Jay MacIntyre baskets in the final minute with free throws to push the lead back to three points each time.
“When you play a team coached by Ken (Niven) and you play against great players like he has, you feel very fortunate getting out of here with a win,” Fossil Ridge coach Matt Johannsen said. “I think he’s one of the best coaches in the state.”
Alex Semadeni and Brandon Bodnar led the SaberCats with 15 points apiece, and Andrew Semadeni and Bodnar converted the cold-blooded free throws in the final minute to keep Monarch at bay.
The Coyotes were led by Fredricksmeyer’s 13 points, all in the second half. He scored the first nine of the third quarter, highlighted by two 3-pointers that prevented Fossil Ridge from running away.
“We did everything we needed to get a win, defensively and taking care of the basketball,” Niven said. “We had a couple mistakes rebounding. We played a good game, just a couple offensive plays short. We played with a lot of heart.”
That being said, Niven is not one for moral victories. The state tournament doesn’t reward solid effort, only results, so the Coyotes are going to have to eke out these types of wins in the near future.
Beauchamp’s long 3-point attempt in the final seconds came with Alex Semadeni guarding him and appeared true before bouncing off the front of the rim.
“Those are the shots you dream about taking,” said Beauchamp, who scored 12. “But right out of my hand I knew it was a little bit short. They knew I had to take a three and it was great D by Alex.”
After a scrum for the rebound, Monarch got the ball back with 0.4 seconds left, but Fossil Ridge tipped away the inbounds pass.
“We wanted to get them into a close game late, where they hadn’t been,” Niven said. “We did, but they hit their free throws and executed late.”
Fossil Ridge 49, Monarch 46
At Monarch H.S.
FOSSIL RIDGE (16-0, 9-0)
Bodnar 6 2-2 15, Smith 3 0-0 7, Novak 1 0-0 3, Al. Semadeni 7 1-1 15, Quaid 1 0-0 2, An. Semadeni 0 2-2 2, Lewis 0 0-0 0, Laine 0 0-0 0, Herkstroeter 1 3-4 5, Dowd 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 8-9 49.
MONARCH (13-3, 7-2)
Fredricksmeyer 4 3-4 13, Lawson 1 2-3 4, Beauchamp 5 0-0 12, MacIntyre 4 0-0 8, Kirkman 0 0-0 0, Rowan 0 0-0 0, Johnson 2 1-1 5, Webb 2 0-0 4. Totals 18 6-8 46.
Score by quarters:
Fossil Ridge 14 10 10 15 — 49
Monarch 10 10 11 15 — 46
3-point field goals — Fossil Ridge (3): Bodnar, Smith, Novak; Monarch (4): Fredricksmeyer 2, Beauchamp 2. Total fouls — Fossil Ridge 13, Monarch 12.