Special to the Courier
PUEBLO—Panther People, it wasn’t the encore you all were hoping for.
But Friday’s 53-43 loss wasn’t exactly a letdown, either.
The night after stunning the 1-seed in the Class 2A Championships’ ‘Great Eight,’ your boys dig into the ‘Final Four’ against the crew many felt should have been top banana beginning the event—Limon.
And could Sierra Grande ‘dig’ that?
Early on, a way head coach Matt Lucero would have found tough to believe even in a dream.
LHS, the No. 4 seed, began as fast as possible, with Tyler Koehn receiving the opening tip and zooming in for a slick reverse layup. But when senior Bryan Garcia drained his first three-ball—as teammate Braydon Wakasugi had earlier done to first get Sierra Grande on the scoreboard as they went up 6-5.
Garcia then sank a 12-footer (8-5), Victor Howard sliced in for a layup (10-5) with 1:50 left, Tomas Vigil netted a pair of post-foul freebies (12-5) and big Adam Gomez not only came up with a steal near the quarter’s end. He ran the floor and put in a high-arcing layup off the glass for a 14-5 advantage.
Had Badger guard Gavin Liggett not caught fire and canned three 3-pointers in the second, 8th-seed Sierra Grande’s lead at halftime could have been nothing short of grandiose. Known senior star Chandler Dohe hadn’t managed a single point until finally re-gaining Limon the lead at 17-16, following Liggett’s first two makes from distance inside CSU-Pueblo’s Massari Arena.
Getting into the act, teammate Toby Kropp knocked down a tie-breaking triple just before the buzzer to put LHS up 21-18 at the break, and Liggett went back-to-back to get the Badgers off and running to a 29-20 lead early in the third. Dohe flew in for a mid-air tip of a blown Kropp layup, making the margin 35-24 just before Vigil trimmed it back to single digits (35-26) with a frame to play.
And the Panthers would approach as close as seven only thrice more, on a sweet spin to the rim by Gomez to get the fourth underway, with 3:42 remaining—after Gomez struck twice around a FT miss, bringing Sierra Grande back to 44-37.
But 3-pointers? While Liggett buried his sixth—with 6:16 left in the contest, for a 40-28 lead—the Panthers still hadn’t made one since their coming-out ambush, and wouldn’t make one until Wakasugi (nine points) connected with just 0:53 left. The make pulled the Panthers back to 49-43, but Koehn answered for the Badgers with his second dunk of the night.
His first was a vicious two-hand flush of a rare Liggett brick with 5:52 still left, but fittingly, Liggett would deservingly have the last heroics. Fouled in the backcourt by Gomez with three ticks yet to expire, the junior cashed both charity tosses to cap a 24-point performance.
Koehn, a senior, emerged from his low-post clashes with junior Gomez (12 pts) and senior Vigil (12 pts) with 16 points. Dohe finished with an effective eight, but earned his keep with some strong rebounding. Kropp had his three, and sophomore Luke Meier notched the Badger reserves’ only two points.
Howard finished with five points for Sierra Grande (now 22-4), as did Garcia.
But the potential giant-killers just ran out of time in another giant thriller, and will now play—Saturday at 2 p.m.—for a best-possible finish of third for the 2012-13 season. Meanwhile, LHS (24-1) will look to take the proverbial ‘rubber match,’ and all the proverbial ‘marbles’ in their third tilt this season with Denver Christian—the only bunch yet to better them—in the 5:30 p.m. grand finale.
LIMON (5-16-14-18—53): Gavin Liggett 8 2-2 24, Tyler Koehn 4 8-11 16, Chandler Dohe 4 0-0 8, Toby Kropp 1 0-0 3, Landon Stang 0 0-0 0, Luke Linnebur 0 0-0 0, Beau Brewer 0 0-0 0, Tyler Bandy 0 0-0 0, Luke Meier 1 0-0 2, Schafer Thompson 0 0-0 0, Tristan Reubesam 0 0-0 0, Kerrigan Kappel 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 18 10-13 53. 3-POINTERS: Liggett 6, Kropp. FOULED OUT: None.
SIERRA GRANDE (14-4-8-17—43): Tomas Vigil 4 4-6 12, Victor Howard 1 3-4 5, Braydon Wakasugi 3 1-4 9, Bryan Garcia 2 0-0 5, Adam Gomez 5 2-3 12, Elijah Ontiveros 0 0-0 0, Ricardo Lucero 0 0-0 0, Regis Gilmartin 0 0-0 0, Mason Mizokami 0 0-0 0, Franklin Kuhn 0 0-0 0, Michael Ontiveros 0 0-0 0, Antonio Vigil 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 15 10-15 43. 3-POINTERS: Wakasugi 2, Garcia. FOULED OUT: None.