Boys basketball: Monarch stays in playoff hunt with win at Boulder

  • Brad Cochi /

    Monarch's Evan Alexander puts in a layup during the Coyotes victory over Boulder Thursday night.

  • Brad Cochi /

    Monarch's Matt Chen slips by the Boulder defense for a layup Thursday.

  • Brad Cochi /

    Boulder's Max Riley goes up for a shot Thursday against Monarch.



BOULDER — It’s beginning to feel to Monarch head coach Stewart Brewer as though the Coyotes haven’t played a game unless Keegan Johnson, one of his most talented and highest-motor players, gets elbowed in the nose, or bruises a rib diving on the floor, or takes a hard fall after grabbing a rebound.

Despite being one of the Coyotes’ leading scorers, Johnson’s list of hustle injuries and even a few mishaps has also grown lengthier by the game this season. In fact, Johnson’s highs and lows are not unlike those of the entire Coyotes team, an athletic and talented group that still has not won more than two games in a row in 2017-18 but just keeps hanging around the Class 5A postseason bubble.

Coming off a loss in their last game, the Coyotes did what they usually do and bounced back on Thursday night. It was close, too, but they managed to hold off an equally talented Boulder team to win 50-45.

“We’ve had some tough games but I’m proud of the way we stayed in it tonight,” Johnson said. “We could have given up and allowed them to come back when they kept hitting shots. But we stayed mentally strong and pulled it out.”

After Johnson (12.5 ppg) hit a layup to put Monarch up 39-28 with 1 minute, 4 seconds left in the third quarter, the Coyotes (8-10, 4-3 Front Range) held that same double-digit advantage to start the fourth. With Monarch leading by eight points heading into the final four minutes, the Panthers (10-8, 4-4 Front Range) shot 3 for 8 from the field but turned the ball over twice while the Coyotes went 2 for 3 from the field and 1 for 5 at the free-throw line.

Boulder’s Tyler Turner scored on a put-back to cut the lead to five with 48.9 seconds left. Almost immediately after the Coyotes inbounded the ball on their ensuing possession, Max Riley took a charge that gave Boulder the ball back and knocked Johnson out of the game with five fouls, then sophomore Caleb Wehmuller (13.0 ppg) made a 3-pointer with 40 seconds left that pulled the Panthers within two.

Monarch’s leading scorer Tylor Trinh (13.4 ppg), however, went 3 for 4 at the free-throw line on the Coyotes’ next two possessions to close the door.

It wasn’t the prettiest win, but every victory is critical at this point in the season for a team like Monarch that is 50th in the RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) standings that determine the 48-team state tournament field.

“(Boulder’s) a great defensive team,” Brewer said. “I mean, we’re averaging just shy of 70 points a game and they really contained us, and we knew they would coming in. We weren’t ready for that last three or four minutes of offense they brought, so they played really well. We’re getting there but it’s going to take a lot more work.”

Showing some defensive prowess of their own, the Coyotes held the Panthers to just three points in the third quarter to build the lead they needed to withstand the home team’s late comeback. Wehmuller led all scorers with 15 points. Trinh scored 14 for Monarch. Riley, who hit four 3-pointers, scored 12 for Boulder and Monarch’s Taye Jones scored nine.

On Friday night, the Coyotes will host Greeley West. The Panthers will be back at home on Saturday when they host Legend.

Brad Cochi: or

Monarch 50, Boulder 45

At Boulder H.S.

MONARCH (8-10, 4-3)

Jones 3 2-7 9, Alexander 1 2-4 4, Schmanski 1 2-2 5, Covington 1 0-0 2, Ponejos 1 0-0 2, Trinh 4 3-4 14, Ramsey 0 2-2 2, Chen 2 2-3 6, Grigsby 0 0-0 0, Johnson 3 0-0 6. Totals 16 13-22 50.

BOULDER (10-8, 4-4)

Davis 1 0-0 2, Riley 4 0-3 12, Peterson 1 0-1 2, Blessing 0 0-0 0, Kang 3 1-2 7, Tebo 0 0-0 0, Erickson-Dunn 1 1-2 3, Turner 1 0-0 2, Wehmuller 4 4-5 15, Davison 0 0-0 0, Arthur 0 2-2 2. Totals 15 8-15 45.

Score by quarters:

Monarch 14121311—50

Boulder 916317—45

3-point field goals — Monarch (5): Trinh 3, Jones, Schmanski; Boulder (7): Riley 4, Wehmuller 3. Total fouls — Monarch 22, Boulder 26. Fouled out — Johnson, Erickson-Dunn, Kang.