The Colorado State High School Basketball Tournament is where history is made and players can engrave their names into the record books forever. At Chaparral, winning is a tradition, and every moment in the regular season leads up to competing to become the best team in the state. Who could forget the time five years ago when Cory Calvert led his team to overtime against Arapahoe, took it up the court for Chap, and missed the game-winning three, allowing Josh Adams to soar above the defenders for the putback layup at the buzzer? Today, every member of that 2012 team is labeled a champion, something that cannot be taken away for as long as they live.
In this single elimination bracket, importance comes with surviving and advancing. One little mishap and the season can fade. Today, the journey begins. In Chap’s home gym, they face the Regis Jesuit Raiders. The Wolverines were granted a first round bye, and Regis dominated Arvada West 73-51 in the first round, meaning 32 teams remain fighting to be the best in Colorado. Going into the game, the competition seems intriguing.
On February 15, Chap and Regis played in Aurora, giving both sides an early preview of their later determined second round matchup. A few notes on the game:
Despite the intense visiting crowd, Chaparral dominated in a 65-47 win
The Wolverines outshot the Raiders 46% to 39% from the field
Chap won the rebounding battle 28-17
As the lineups for the teams are announced, the intense screams echo in the Wolverine’s gym. Junior and critical role-player Wayne Fish is missing his first game of the season, and his absence could prove to be fatal. Another factor swinging more towards the Raiders’ favor is the smaller but just as loud opposing student section. The ref blows his whistle, throws the ball in the air and we’re off.
Star sophomore Ronnie Degray sinks an early corner three to start the game for Chaparral, but the talented Regis sophomore Jamil Safieddine fires back from deep immediately to tie it 3-3. Before the game, Chap was the clear favorite as they had a better ranking in the state, but Regis surprises many with their patience and frequent ball movement. After the first quarter, the Raiders lead 13-9. The opposing crowd is ecstatic, and the home team’s sea of white sounds slightly deflated, but not entirely discouraged.
In the second, the Wolverines turns the aggression up to match the toughness of the hard-nosed, energetic Regis team. Their offensive execution improves, led by the smooth shooting from sophomore Joseph Dalton. Despite the improving offense, Chap’s defense isn’t perfect, and Safieddine kept making three-pointer after three-pointer. At the half, Chaparral still trailed Regis 26-22.
To begin the third quarter, the game’s tempo peaks, and the Raiders’ size and strength allows them to pull away. Regis junior Elijah Martinez is shooting threes efficiently, and the monster 6’11” sophomore Samba Kane constantly forces his way inside, including a powerful slam-dunk to give the Raiders a 41-32 lead.
Chap trailed by as many as 12 in the fourth, but head coach at Tellus Truesdale makes a point to his guys to push to the ball and cut down on the excessive turnovers. When your back is against the wall, and your team needs you to take over, it measures your character and will to win. Dalton understands this and he energizes the comeback with a step back three, then some great defense, then makes two free throws. The 12 point deficit becomes 5: 49-44 with 2:30 to go. Then, sophomore Jovon Nelson takes it to the rim to make it three. On both sides of the ball, the Wolverines were executing.
Degray is fouled with 41.5 seconds to go. The score is 50-47 Regis, meaning Chap has two free throws for a chance to cut the lead to one point. Unfortunately, the team has struggled all day at the free throw line, and the electric opposing crowd wouldn’t give Degray complete focus. The first one is up and in. Tie game. Now the Raiders crowd is elevating the decibel level to an even higher point. A couple of dribbles from Degray, a momentary stare at the net, a slight bend of the knees, and the release of the ball. Nothing but net.
On the other end, Chap fouls Safieddine who is given a one-and-one at the free throw line. If he misses the first, the ball is live and can be taken back from Chap. If he scores, the ball is dead and Safieddine is granted a second shot. Something isn’t right as the Raiders sophomore looks tense. He misses the shot, and Chap rebounds. A quick bucket is returned once again by Degray, and the Wolverines did the impossible: they have the 51-50 lead with 15 seconds to go.
Now Martinez is fouled, but somehow he misses the shot as well. Dalton eventually goes to the free throw line and makes two. From then, the defense and smart play gives Chaparral a remarkable comeback win. The final score was 53-50.
Martinez’s 16 points and Safieddine’s 13 points fueled the strong Regis performance, but it was the 19 points and 5 rebounds from Dalton that powered the Wolverines late-game surge. Degray also contributed 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks.
Up next, Chaparral will have to play with heart as they will travel to downtown Denver to face the elite George Washington Patriots. The game will be tough, but it is the teamwork and effort that won them this round two game that will be needed in the Sweet Sixteen.
By Carson Frost