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Boys basketball: Frederick soars above Niwot in rim-busting bonanza

Frederick's Luke Justice, right, puts up a shot over Niwot's Julian Lettow on Thursday night. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
Frederick’s Luke Justice, right, puts up a shot over Niwot’s Julian Lettow on Thursday night. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
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FREDERICK — As Luke Justice dished the ball toward the basket in the fourth quarter, Matias Aldana rose above the competition.

The subsequent alley-oop provided the perfect metaphor not just for Class 5A No. 2 Frederick’s dominant, 80-55 home win over Niwot on Thursday night, but for its unblemished season at the start of league play. That wasn’t the only abuse the rims took from the senior forward, either. Aldana finished the game with 17 points, six of which came from dunks.

It was senior point guard Justice, however, that showed no mercy, which was unsurprising given his 45-point performance against Fort Morgan a week earlier. He finished his night against the Cougars with 22 points before head coach Jeff Conway sat him in the fourth. Senior forward Jacob Lovins and junior guard JJ Strojinc added their names to the double-digit list with another 15 and 10 points, respectively, for Frederick.

Frederick's Matias Aldana dunks the ball against Niwot on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
Frederick’s Matias Aldana dunks the ball against Niwot on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

“I felt a little extra bouncy tonight. I don’t know why. There was a lot of hype in the game and it was just fun,” Aldana said. “We just really try to focus on our record. We just work hard at practice, keep working hard. It doesn’t really matter who we play, we just want to win, win, win and win as a team.”

Ten games into the season, the Golden Eagles have done nothing but win.

Conway credits the team’s nearly unprecedented 4A Final Four run in 2022 for the strides the Golden Eagles have taken in 2022-23 — and why they’re such a threat to win the 5A state title this year.

It showed in every dunk, every steal and every own-rebound.

“This team is just so confident,” Conway said. “I think we still need to work on our defense. We’re content with trying to outscore teams instead of defend teams, so that’s going to be our main focus going forward, but I think they’re just more confident.”

The Golden Eagles’ improvement, while linear, still paled in comparison to the exponential leaps Niwot took from last year’s 3-17 record. When the Cougars visited the Golden Eagles in 2022, they lost 81-29. They already have four wins this season.

The Cougars displayed a far higher basketball IQ, greater shooting ability and more aggression near the post against the Golden Eagles. Senior Jerek Funkhouser, who entered the contest averaging 20.9 points per game, has been a huge reason why. He, along with senior small forward Julian Lettow, led the Cougars with 12 points on Thursday night as senior wing Zachary Dawson added another eight.

Funkhouser believes it all boils down to maturity and chemistry, not just for himself but the Cougars as a whole.

“This offseason, I put in a lot of work,” he said. “I’m just happy to see that pay off. I also grew a little bit. Being 6-(foot)-6 definitely helps, but also playing with these guys. We always trust each other. We try to find each other with the ball.”

The Golden Eagles, now 10-0 and 5-0 in Longs Peak League play, hope to continue their winning streak when they visit Northridge on Saturday. The Cougars (4-6, 2-4) will now look to regain their footing at Mountain View a few days later on Tuesday.

They’re already proving that this program can and will continue to rise.

“There are a lot of guys that were in this gym last year and they walked away from this game and a number of games last year with a focused effort on improving,” Niwot head coach Clay Wittrock said. “I think we’ve seen, on this team, a higher level of trust that even when things aren’t going right, they rebound a lot quicker from a bad play and they put in the work. That experience has helped a lot.”

Frederick's Luke Justice, right, and Niwot's Julian Lettow, left, battle for the rebound on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
Frederick’s Luke Justice, right, and Niwot’s Julian Lettow, left, battle for the rebound on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)