Heck of a group, these Eagecrest Raptors.
They’re daring. Resilient. Athletic. Determined. They adjust. They work extremely hard. They share. They are equal parts star and teamwork.
And now they’re champions. Again.
In capping the winter season on Saturday night at the Denver Coliseum, Eaglecrest took its second Class 5A championship with a hard-fought 53-47 victory over George Washington. It capped another city versus suburbs struggle that so many big-school championships come down to, and further underlined the current supremacy enjoyed by the Aurora and southeastern-metropolitan area after Overland had won the previous two.
Credit coach John Olander. The Raptors finished 24-4, repeatedly had comebacks and adjusted on the fly like the talented, open-minded contingent they are.
Amid loud chants from the Eaglecrest faithful of “MVP! MVP!” senior Colbey Ross wrapped up a considerable career that included three final-four showings.
“This is the way to go out, I mean, this is amazing,” said Ross, who will move on to Pepperdine. “Yeah, it means a lot. I’m just so thankful.”
The Raptors won their second title since 2013, when they ran over Denver East and Olander has been at the front of both of them.
“You know what, to win your first one was pretty sweet,” he said when asked to compare them. “You just don’t about winning it … you do think about winning it. But you don’t coach high-school sports to win championships, you do it because it’s a sport you love and to help kids out … so that first one was awfully cool , but getting wo of them just kind of validates what you’re doing and you do it with different kids. To do it with all these people here, my great school, my great family, it’s pretty amazing.”
GW, which ended 25-3, carried much of the play, particularly early. The Raptors frequently found themselves a step slow on defense, gave up some outside looks and follow-ups, and Olander said his guys were bothered by the Patriots’ quickness.
He called the Pats “such an aggressive team and they had athletic kids who came out and kind of punched us in the mouth.“
They led 22-16 at halftime through balance by Cavin Fugett, Jon’ll Fugett, Jervay Green and Tre Pierce. However, Eaglecrest, much like it has done in big games throughout the season, responded. Of course, Ross was in the middle of it as was the athletically talented Victor Garnes and Ikenna Ozor. The Raptors made a move in the third quarter to tie it, then a 12-point binge to take command and keep it.
Eaglecrest transition and defense fueled most of it, and GW had issues shooting outside, finishing inside and receiving passes.
Down the stretch, Eaglecrest also overcame iffy free-throw shooting as well as GW’s final surge. But Ross made all six of his free throws and the Raptors protected the ball enough to keep the Pats fouling as well as chasing.
Pierce and Shaeem Seeper each had 10 points to lead GW.
Because Eaglecrest frequently found itself in tough spots on Saturday as well as in numerous other games, Olander said he deserves much of the blame for constantly experimenting, sending in lots of players and attempting to be ready for anything.
“We tinker with things,” he said.
However, the Raptors are at their best when “we defend, rebound and share the basketball. We’re not very good when we go one-on-one.”
And they were very good when Ross was in command.
“Colbey’s been amazing,” Olander said. “I’ve seen Colbey grow up before my eyes. He’s the most competitive kid I’ve ever had. He knows what I want in his own way and I just let him lead. I have never been around a more competitive person in my life.”
And a successful one within his team.
George Washington 12 10 10 15 – 47
Eaglecrest 9 7 17 20 – 53
George Washington -- J. Fugett 1 0-0 3, Diallo 3 2-2 8, White 1 0-0 2, Johnson 0 0-0 0, C. Fugett 2 2-4 6, Pierce 5 0-0 10, Green 3 2-4 8, Speer 3 3-3 10. Totals 18 9-13 47.
Eaglecrest – Garnes 3 4-7 11, Ross 4 6-6 15, Forsberg 2 0-0 6, Jackson 0 0-0 0, Walton 2 2-4 6, Brown 0 0-0 0, Ozor 5 2-2 12, Bokol 1 1-2 3. Totals 17 15-21 53.
3-pt. goals – J. Fugett, Speer; Forsberg 2, Garnes, Ross. Fouled out-- None. Technicals – None.