ARVADA — It was a game the Jefferson Academy Jaguars had circled on their calendars.
The grind of the Class 3A Metro League means no nights off, no breaks, and every game is a dogfight that in the end will make whoever comes out of it a lot better.
The gold standard of the league over the years has been Faith Christian, who at one point had claimed five straight Class 3A state titles. On Friday night, the Eagles — ranked No. 2 in the latest Associated Press media poll — proved to be a tough match for the No. 4 Jaguars, who got in a hole early, clawed back before halftime, and then watched it slip away in the second half.
Faith Christian (11-0), behind the big three of Spencer Bazz, Grant Harkness and Gabriel Hegarty, won the league opener 67-45 in front of a packed house.
“They played very well,” said Jefferson Academy coach Mark Sharpley, whose team dropped to 10-2 overall and 0-1 in the Metro. “They caused a lot of our quick shots and the bad decisions and you can give them as much credit for our misses with their defense.
“They are good. They are excellent.”
Faith Christian started quick with Harkness and Hegarty scoring 15 of the Eagles’ 19 first quarter points that had their team up 13 after just 8 minutes.
The Jaguars didn’t blink. With Faith employing a spy on sharpshooter Joe Raff for most of the night, Sharpley and his staff had to get creative and find different ways to not only attack the basket, but create open looks for other guys.
Jefferson Academy outscored Faith 19-9 in the second quarter and a 3-pointer by Dalton Hagen with time running out trimmed the Faith margin to 28-25 going to the break.
All the momentum spent digging out of that hole was gone by the time they came back out and Faith put the game away in the third quarter, getting easy looks on backdoor cuts and going on an 18-4 run that buried the Jags.
“When we started the second half, we took poor shots and turned it over,” Sharpley said. “Then we tried to rush it and they started hitting all of their shots.”
He wasn’t lying.
During a 10-minute stretch from late in the third to early in the fourth, Faith Christian hit 14 shots in a row and Bazz, who as shut out in the first half, found his rhythm, ultimately finishing with 14 points.
Harkness added 18 and Hegarty led everyone with 22 points.
“They hit us on some plays and very uncharacteristic of us, we lost our man several times and just allowed them to be underneath the hoop and around the hoop, and we had no idea where they were,” said Sharpley, whose team will travel to SkyView Academy on Tuesday. “Certainly a lot of things to learn for us and take the adversity, turn it into a positive and get back to work.”
Raff was held to just two 3-point field goals and finished with 11 points. Andrew Ullman was fearless going to the rim and led the Jags with 17 points.
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Faith Christian 67, Jefferson Academy 45
At Faith Christian
JEFFERSON ACADEMY (10-2, 0-1)
Taylor Teets 0 2-2 2, Andrew Ullman 6 5-5 17, Joe Rodriguez 1 0-0 3, Jake Barlow 1 0-0 3, Nate Rodriguez 0 0-0 0, Trever Ballard 1 0-0 2, Joe Raff 2 5-6 11, Zach Talley 0 0-0 0, Dalton Hagen 1 0-0 3, Shane Davis 2 0-0 4, Dylan Bendure 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 12-13 45.
FAITH CHRISTIAN (11-0, 1-0)
Spencer Bazz 5 2-2 14, Chance Bazz 1 0-0 3, Josh Keiter 0 0-0 0, Jacob Schreiner 0 2-2 2, Jake Sanders 1 0-2 2, Grayland Balmer 0 0-2 0, Noah Rodighiero 2 0-0 4, Grant Harkness 8 0-0 18, Josh McCoy 0 0-0 0, Jonathan Hardcastle 1 0-0 2, Gabriel Hegarty 7 8-9 22. Totals 25 12-17 67.
Score by quarters:
Jefferson Academy 6 19 4 16 — 45
Faith Christian 19 9 18 21 — 67
3-point field goals — Jefferson Academy (5): Raff 2, Ja. Barlow, J. Rodriguez, Hagen; Faith Christian (5): S. Bazz 2, Harkness 2, C. Bazz. Total fouls — Jefferson Academy 16, Faith Christian 13. Technical fouls — Harkness.