LONGMONT — Excitement and heart-pounding basketball abounded at Silver Creek High School on Tuesday as, in a doubleheader that featured the girls before the boys, both games came all the way down to the wire.
In the later boys game, the Trojans and Raptors embodied the age-old Bill Walton quote — “I wonder if there’s a record for the longest last two minutes of a basketball game” — before Longmont secured victory with a 55-46 final.
Senior shooting guard Reese Pearson paced Longmont with 18 points, but he was far from the only Trojan to hit double-digits thanks to junior point guard Cole Corner (12 points), senior shooting guard Kaden Rose (11) and senior Bau Brush (10).
The Raptors saw most of their production from their leading man, senior shooting guard Zach Schmeeckle, who dominated with 20 points followed by senior point guard Ryan Burns’ nine and junior shooting guard Gabe Selby’s eight.
The Trojans controlled the pace from the very beginning as Pearson put in his best Steph Curry impression and drained 3-pointer after 3-pointer like it was his job. His downtown dominance, along with some inside help from Brush, allowed Longmont to take its first double-digit lead at 16-6 by the time the clock expired for the first quarter.
“The past couple days, I’ve just been feeling it, shooting the ball really well,” Pearson said. “It’s been feeling nice, but I can’t credit my teammates enough for getting me those open shots. I’m just knocking them down.”
The Trojans continued to keep the Raptors at a comfortable distance, thanks to strong defense and a little bit of kleptomania, to lead 34-27 at the half.
Then the two teams gave each other the cold shoulder — unintentionally — as their respective offenses dried up in the third frame. Silver Creek took advantage of the drought with a small trickle of offense, netting eight unanswered points to draw the third-quarter score to 38-35 in Longmont’s favor with eight minutes to go.
“I think we showed a lot of strength,” Schmeeckle said. “We seem to come out stronger and know that we can play and compete with any team. One of our strengths is when we get up and play great defense and pressure the ball, we’re going to force turnovers. We didn’t do that very much in the second quarter and then when we started doing it in the third quarter, they only made a couple field goals. All their points were on free throws in the second half mostly.”
A technical foul from the Raptors, which allowed Longmont’s Corner to net 3 of 4 free throws, swung the momentum back to the Trojans for the final time. He continued to hit dagger after dagger from the line down the stretch.
The Trojans, now 11-4 and 5-1 in 6A/5A/4A Northern Colorado Athletic Conference play, will look to extend their hot streak to six games when they host Centaurus on Thursday as the Raptors (9-6, 2-4) hope to rebound at Greeley West on the same night.
“We’ve just really brought it together as a team,” Pearson said. “Our ball movement has become so much better. We’re known for our defense, so keeping that up is always a priority.”
Silver Creek girls surge to victory
Izzy Spagnoletti hasn’t had a night quite like Tuesday, when the energy from the crowd infected Silver Creek’s gym.
The North Carolina native, who transferred to the Longmont-area school this year, utilized the energy that dueling student sections provided to help push her Raptors past visiting Longmont, 45-41 — the team’s fourth win of the season.
The party was definitely on the Raptors’ side.
“It’s something I’ve never personally experienced, but I’m so glad I’m here and that I moved here,” Spagnoletti said. “It’s just so much fun. It just gets everybody hyped up.”
Spagnoletti, a sophomore, provided a much-needed spark for the Raptors in the second half and finished her night with 17 points, as senior shooting guard Taylor Mallett took charge in the first half before ending with 16 points of her own. On Longmont’s side, junior power forward Savannah Pohl surged with 17 points as junior small forward Ella Pears contributed another 10.
Both teams showed incredible grit and maturity in the raucous environment, even when the momentum could have shifted the opposite way at any given moment. Silver Creek just won the war in the end.
“I feel like it just puts a lot more pressure on us to win just because it’s a crosstown rival, and also because we did lose to them last year,” Pears said. “All week going into practice, we were kind of pumped up. In a way, we kind of got too energized about it that we kind of let go of the basics a few times and were rushing.”
The two teams, after coming in from the frigid cold outside, began the game with icy shooting even as the Trojans claimed the advantage early. They warmed up significantly in the second quarter, thanks in part to sharp shooting from Pohl for the Trojans and senior center Allison Russell for the Raptors.
Russell crashed the glass to give her team meaningful second chances before trailing the Trojans 22-20 at the half.
That’s when the student section for both teams showed out in full force. Throughout the third quarter, the Trojans managed to keep the Raptors at arm’s length throughout the third frame, but Silver Creek kept inching closer and closer to taking over until, in the opening seconds of the fourth frame, a midrange jumper from Spagnoletti gave the Raptors their first lead at 31-30.
Six minutes later, she once again turned the tides irrevocably in favor of the Raptors with a smooth layup.
The Raptors, now 4-10 and 1-5 in 6A/5A/4A NCAC play, have an excellent chance to start a winning streak when they head to 1-13 Greeley West on Thursday night. The Trojans (7-8, 1-5) will look to rebound at home against Centaurus on the same night.
Pears is confident her Trojans can.
“I think that we’re playing better together, you know, we’re passing, we’re seeing each other and we kind of know our strengths and weaknesses better, which helps us exploit other teams and get more wins,” she said.