BROOMFIELD — For nearly three quarters Friday night, the Mountain Range Mustangs and their tenacious zone defense were having their way with the Broomfield Eagles.
Quality looks were hard to come by for Broomfield. Turnovers — though not prevalent — were happening at the wrong time and with under three minutes to play in the third quarter, the Eagles had 23 points and were staring at a 12 point deficit.
Then the light came on and it was Justin Berry that hit the switch. His buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the corner was the spark the Eagles needed and they went on to outscore the Mustangs 15-2 in the final 8 minutes for a rousing 43-37 come-from-behind victory in their Front Range League opener on Friday night.
“We haven’t seen much of that (zone) and it was hard to get adjusted to it with the quick turnaround after break. But once we got used to it, we settled down and stuff started dropping,” said Eagles junior Steven Croell, who scored 10 of his game high 16 in the fourth quarter.
“Justin hit that 3 at the end of the third and from then on we just kind of felt it and knew things were starting to roll our way.”
The Eagles (7-3) regained the lead for the first time since early in the first quarter with five minutes to play on the first of what were two sterling defensive plays down the stretch. Michael Georgiton reached in and picked the pocket of Mike Polson and it led to a Croell fast break layup on the other end to put the Eagles up for good at 36-35.
“Defense creating open looks really came into play,” Croell said. “And our bench came in during the third quarter to give us a break and get us ready for the fourth.”
Mountain Range (7-5) scored its only points of the fourth quarter with 3:45 to play to trim the Eagles lead to 39-37. That’s when Broomfield coach Terrence Dunn when into stall mode, holding the ball in the corners and forcing the Mustangs to come out and foul.
It nearly backfired when Tanner Garner got called for traveling to give the ball back to the Mustangs, but before Mountain Range could get the ball up the court Berry made that second big defensive play, jumping in front of a pass and swatting it out of bounds off of a Mustangs player.
“(The stall) is not pretty basketball, but we were struggling against their zone,” said Dunn, who took his team to Coors Events Center to see the Buffaloes big win over No. 4 Arizona State on Thursday night. “But you do what you’ve got to do to win the game.”
Mountain Range got one last chance with 25 seconds to go, but Brandon Romero’s deep 3 for the lead hit the back iron and Croell went high for the rebound, was fouled and hit the free throws on the other end to ice the game.
The Eagles get right back at it on Saturday at Brighton for a 2 p.m. tip-off.
BROOMFIELD 43, MOUNTAIN RANGE 37
MOUNTAIN RANGE (7-5, 0-1)
Connor Jones 4 0-0 12, Mike Polson 4 0-0 10, Brandon Romero 0 0-0 0, Connor Ferrari 1 0-0 3, Jacob Millar 1 0-0 2, Ryan Trinkhaus 0 0-0 0, Logan Dexter 5 0-0 10. Totals 15 0-0 37.
BROOMFIELD (7-3, 1-0)
Justin Berry 2 0-2 5, Jacob Felknor 0 0-0 0, Ryan Collins 0 0-0 0, Grant Swenson 2 0-0 5, Steven Croell 5 6-6 16, Michael Georgiton 3 2-2 10, Tanner Garner 0 0-0 0, Devin Martinez 3 1-1 7. Totals 15 9-11 43.
Score by quarters:
3-point field goals — Mountain Range (7): Jones 4, Polson 2, Ferrari; Broomfield (4): Georgiton 2, Berry, Swenson. Total fouls — Mountain Range 11; Broomfield 7.