LONGMONT — Jason Johnson was simply exhausted after having to point out all of Skyline’s mistakes on Wednesday night.
Somehow, by the end, he had plenty of good things to say as the Falcons scratched and clawed their way to a win to open the Falcon Challenge at SHS late in the evening.
After cruising to a season-opening victory against Greeley Central on Tuesday, Skyline struggled mightily against Denver North for most of the contest. However, using a distinct rebounding edge, the Falcons rallied in the third quarter and dominated the fourth frame for a 53-45 win.
“I’m proud of them, and we need things like this to build confidence because we are going to have tight ballgames through the year,” Johnson said after Skyline improved to 2-0. “We need to have confidence that we can come through. The experience hopefully shows that, yeah, we’ll settle down and make shots when we need and get defensive stops when we need.
“We’ll take an ugly win.”
Skyline nearly matched their scoring with the number of rebounds it collected, out-muscling North 41-25 on the boards for the game. That included a 22-9 edge in the second half, which was instrumental in keeping it close as SHS struggled to find shots.
It was the easy baskets they missed the most.
“We got the looks we wanted, but just could not make a point-blank shot for the better part of the basketball game,” Johnson said. “We stayed in touch with things because of rebounding. Our defense was good except on the perimeter. We controlled the boards, and that was a big part in keeping us in it.”
Matt Dietz had a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds, and Deshon Elcock, Justin Forsyth and Josh Angstead each hauled down at least seven rebounds.
Both teams came out slow, trading empty possessions more often than finding the baskets. Skyline led 20-17 at the half before North started to hit shots from the perimeter.
Three-point baskets from Jose Estrada, Joel Ramirez and Michael DeLeon early in the third quarter had North out to a 30-23 lead at one point, while Skyline did not make a field goal until Tyler Brenneman’s jumper with 3 minutes, 28 seconds to go in the third frame.
Free throws here and there closed the gap to 31-28 by the time the fourth quarter came around, and finally some of those rebounds started to get finished on the other end.
“We started off really slow even though we were confident coming off our first win,” Dietz said. “We weren’t getting things the way we wanted, but in the second half we played with more power and more aggression. I think that’s what did it for us.”
After trailing 39-34 with 3:50 left, Seth Green’s first field goal — a 3-pointer with 3:12 to go — made it 39-38. Elcock grabbed a big rebound the next possession and was fouled on the offensive end, and he hit 1 of 2 free throws to tie the game at 39-39.
Ramirez hit just 1 of 2 free throws with 2:32 left, and Skyline regained the lead after pushing the ball down the floor on the rebound. Angstead found Dietz for a layup to make it 41-40 at the 2:18 mark, and the Falcons never trailed again.
“We were able to jump over them, and we were able to use the transition to finish the game,” Dietz said. “I think we’re playing good, but we’ve been better in practice than in games so far. We need to translate it over better.”
Angstead finished with 10 points, as did Brenneman. Forsyth pitched in eight points and Moran seven in the victory.
Follow Adam on Twitter: twitter.com/adamdunivan24
SKYLINE 53, DENVER NORTH 45
At Skyline HS
DENVER NORTH (0-1)
Martinez 0 1-3 1, Estrada 2 2-2 8, Irving 4 1-4 9, DeLeon 4 0-1 10, Ramirez 4 3-3 15, Baca 1 0-0 2. Totals 15 7-13 45.
Seth Green 1 0-0 3, Thomas Moran 3 1-2 7, Justin Forsyth 2 4-5 8, Josh Angstead 2 6-10 10, Deshon Elcock 0 3-6 3, Tyler Brenneman 4 2-3 10, Matt Dietz 4 3-4 11. Totals 16 19-30 53.
Score by quarters:
Denver North 8 9 14 14 — 45
Skyline 9 11 8 25 — 53
3-point field goals — Denver North (8): Ramirez 4, DeLeon 2, Estrada 2; Skyline (2): Angstead, Green. Total fouls — Denver North 21, Skyline 18. Fouled out — Ramirez, DeLeon.