Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer
NIWOT — The Niwot boys basketball program knows the record so far this winter — 1-8. It’s aware of the climb ahead it will take to reach sustainable success.
In a game against league-foe Roosevelt Tuesday night, an NHS program that has won two games since the start of last season and has had multiple COVID-related shutdowns this winter, continued its search for progress — and what’s more, consistency — as it fell to the Roughriders 56-46.
“I think the program is not a reflection of our 1-8 record,” said Niwot coach Clay Wittrock, whose team has missed four games due to the virus this season. “This COVID stuff has made it hard on a group that had done a lot to prep. It’s just been hard to get continuity.”
Stephen Sahaj scored 11 of his 15 points by the break for the Cougars (0-2 Class 4A Longs Peak League), who trailed just 25-22 before the Roughriders (6-3, 2-0) pulled away in the second half. Jerek Funkhouser had 10 points and Rowan Granat, who missed all last season with injury, added six.
In the third quarter, Roosevelt held Niwot scoreless for a span of 3:52 as successive baskets by Jaden Herrera pushed its lead to 38-29.
From there, Niwot got as close as six — 42-36 — on a 3-pointer from Dev Mudukutore with 5:39 remaining. But the Roughriders replied with a 10-3 spurt over the next two minutes to pull away.
“We are still working towards some things,” Sahaj said. “We have to execute on defense and have to fix our turnover rate. I think those are the two biggest things. We just need to work harder.”
Roosevelt had been effective from deep in the opening half, scoring 21 of its 25 points from outside the perimeter.
Bowie Schmitz went 3-of-4 from long distance in the opening quarter to put the Roughriders up 16-11. Andrew O’Brien swished another late in the second to make it 25-18 before Niwot closed the half on a 4-0 run.
The Cougars’ first 3 of the night came on Funkhouser’s swish with 35 seconds remaining in the half. The Roughriders hit 10 3s to Niwot’s four on the night.
The Cougars will now look to end their eight-game losing streak at Northridge Friday.
“As a program I’m really excited about what we’re doing and what we’ve done with our younger guys,” said Wittrock, who, after taking over Niwot three years ago and leading a program amid four straight losing seasons into the state playoffs, will look to build it back up again.
“Our varsity group has to just get beyond the struggles we’ve had and find that light.”