But in the end, only one team would ultimately hold the title of District Champions. And ultimately, that team was the Ouray Trojans.
At the final District Tournament game held in Olathe last Saturday, Ouray found their stride against the tough-playing Demons, pulling out the 72-52 win and taking the District title in the process.
“We played good defense, and made just enough right decisions” to come up with this important post-season victory, said Trojans Coach Jim Blennis following the Saturday afternoon match-up on neutral territory in Olathe. “Everybody contributed today, and that’s what made the difference.”
The final 20-point differential on the scoreboard belied a much closer match on the court, with Ridgway coming out strong with the first game basket from Josh Crozier followed in short order by a high-speed steal by Kolton Kyne. But Ouray wouldn’t be stymied for long: a big three-pointer from Trojan sharpshooter Chris Cramp got the ball rolling for Ouray, who secured the lead midway through the first quarter thanks to precise shooting from “Big” Chris Blansett and Eli Holmes.
The Demons’ Crozier came back in response by going two-for-two in penalty shots, then moments later landed a pretty lay-up to tie the game at 11-all with less than a minute to play. A Ouray three-pointer with just 15 seconds left in the quarter assured the team would regain the lead, however, and the first eight minutes of play ended with Ouray ahead by three, 14-11.
Although they held onto the lead throughout the next quarter, the Trojans quickly laid bare their biggest deficit: Before the first 14 minutes were up, Ouray players had racked up six penalties (Ridgway, meanwhile, posted two.) Yet despite their many uncontested opportunities to increase their basket count, Ridgway shooters simply weren’t finding the net as often as they needed to.
“We weren’t making our shots. It just wasn’t our night,” admitted Ridgway coach Paul Fouts following the game.
The Trojans, meanwhile, seemed to have all their shooting coordinates set precisely. Players like Cramp and Holmes continued to find the net in the first half, helping the team increase their lead to 12 (32-20) by the end of the half.
The Demons returned to the court in the second half with renewed vigor, as demonstrated by Kyne who dropped a big three-pointer to start Ridgway’s second-half scoring. The Demons managed to close the gap to within five points in the third quarter, but couldn’t find the depth to overcome the scoreboard deficit completely. Ouray’s Nick Purvis made some big moves on the court, moving the ball through a sea of green to add to his team’s lead with a minute left in the third. Ridgway’s Tanner Skalla finally found the net after a series of Demon attempts, but the Ridgway bench’s celebration was short-lived; Trojan Cramp (who couldn’t miss a shot on Saturday, it seemed) hit a three-pointer on the buzzer to catapult the Trojans to the 53-39 lead.
The Demons came back in the fourth, having found some hidden potency, and with the score holding Ridgway at just ten points back with four minutes left to play Coach Fouts called a timeout. The Demons took that opportunity to reignite their forces; Jake Coulter sunk his two subsequent free shots, after which Aaron Radovanovic landed a layup and Kyne grabbed a steal. Yet despite the late game fireworks, Ouray’s influence was too much for Ridgway to overcome.
The Trojans took the title of District Champions, having landed 72 points to Ridgway’s 52.
As the District’s #1 seed, Ouray automatically wins a berth into the Regional tournament to be held this Saturday. Trojan Coach Blennis says the team will continue to focus on their defense leading up to their first regional game. “Offensively we’ve got the firepower,” he says. “We’ll need to step up our defense and continue to work on the principles.”
Ouray will play in Alamosa this Saturday, against Walsh H.S. Ridgway, as the District’s second seed, played Primero at Western State College on Tuesday and won with a score of 60-55. Ridgway moves on to play in the sweet 16 round on Saturday in Durango against South Baca H.S.
Norwood’s push in the state tournament ended on Tuesday when it lost to Sierra Grande H.S. 75-54.