LAFAYETTE — It’s a good thing Mike DeVries has one of the broadest sets of shoulders in Class 4A boys hoops.
The Centaurus senior is going to be carrying a lot of weight for the Warriors this season, but especially early as an inexperienced team fights to gel together. That was all but proven on Tuesday night in their season opener against Fort Lupton.
The Air Force-bound senior was a monster inside for CHS, collecting 14 points and 10 rebounds, but once he fouled out late in the game against the Bluedevils, the Warriors fell apart at the seams in a 44-37 loss at the CHS gym.
Centaurus went without scoring for the final 6 minutes, 34 seconds of the contest, allowing a 37-31 lead to evaporate with DeVries forced to the bench to watch.
“We’re definitely going to lean on (DeVries) to rebound for us and anchor us defensively, score for us offensively, but we do have some other guys that can step up for us,” said head coach Brandon Gullicksrud. “It was tough once he went out for us, certainly.
“We have some good perimeter guards for us that can attack and play inside and outside. Just tonight, we couldn’t find a rhythm. We’re a contagious shooting team, and we’re going to have nights when they’re drilling shots, nights when we rebound better and take better care of the basketball.”
Gullicksrud is hopeful all of those things come together soon. The Warriors begin the season with just a handful of players with varsity experience, and their youth showed with 19 turnovers for the game including six in the final stanza. Fort Lupton, a state tournament qualifier last season, took advantage of those transition chances to outscore CHS 15-2 in the fourth and snatch the win in what was their opener, too.
The Bluedevils were also able to out-muscle the Warriors on the boards in general, 39-33. That allowed for some balance in scoring from the visitors, as four players pitched in at least nine points.
DeVries and Steven Lopez, a savvy shooter on the outside, were the only Warriors who found the basket consistently. Lopez also had 14 points, including a buzzer-beater at halftime that brought Centaurus to within two points (25-23) at the half.
Those two helped Centaurus regain a lead and extend it to 35-29 by the end of the third quarter. On three different occasions, either DeVries or Lopez drew fouls on successful inside baskets, but only once did they close out the 3-point play with a made free throw.
Shayne Albertson also had a traditional 3-point play with 38 seconds to go in the third, providing the six-point advantage entering the fourth quarter. DeVries had yet another chance for three points the hard way with 6:34 left in the game and missed the free throw (Centaurus went 5-for-15 from the line), and 17 seconds later he committed his fifth foul.
Patrick Vasquez, Nate Cooke and Owen Mellen took over for Fort Lupton down the stretch. Trailing 37-35, Vasquez converted back-to-back transition layups to get Fort Lupton the lead back for good, and Mellen and Cooke combined for seven more points in the quarter.
“We kind of got out of the inside-out game we want to play, and that’s on me because I had too many fouls,” DeVries said. “We played pretty good defense, but struggled on the boards. Everyone has to get better in that, including myself.
“Being able to translate good defensive stops to rebounds and then points on the offensive end, that’s something we can definitely come back to practice and focus on.”
“We just didn’t have enough of anything to win this one, really,” Gullicksrud said.
While the six other players who saw minutes for Centaurus scored nine points combined, Mike Loftus was a bright spot with some hustle plays to haul down some rebounds. He finished with eight of them, all in the second half.
“I’m proud of Mike, and he had that mindset of every board was his,” DeVries said. “That’s fun to watch. For the rest of the guys to see that effort, he’s not the biggest guy but he puts effort into it. “
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FORT LUPTON 44, CENTAURUS 37
At Centaurus HS
FORT LUPTON (1-0)
Vasquez 4 0-2 9, Cooke 5 1-2 11, Arellano 4 0-0 9, Windell 1 2-5 4, May 1 0-2 2, Mellan 3 3-5 9. Totals 18 6-16 44.
Gambon 0 0-1 0, Platt 2 0-0 5, Albertson 1 1-3 3, Moreno 0 1-2 1, Lopez 5 1-3 14, DeVries 6 2-6 14. Totals 14 5-15 37.
Score by quarters:
Fort Lupton 11 14 4 15 — 44
Centaurus 13 10 12 2 — 37
3-point field goals — Fort Lupton (2): Vasquez, Arellano; Centaurus (4): Lopez 3, Platt. Total fouls — Fort Lupton 17, Centaurus 19. Fouled out — DeVries.