LITTLETON — Cherokee Trail, Arvada West, Heritage and host Chatfield advanced to the winner’s side of the bracket of the Charger Challenge boys basketball tournament on Thursday night.

Cherokee Trail and A-West face off in one semifinal at 6 p.m. Friday at Chatfield High School, followed by Heritage squaring off against Chatfield. Prairie View, Westminster, Castle View and Pomona will play in the consolation games starting at 3 p.m. during the second annual tournament.

A-West and Castle View had the closest game on the opening night of the tournament. The Wildcats (4-2 record) held on for a 63-55 victory over the Sabercats. Castle View closed to within 49-48 midway through the fourth quarter, but A-West made 14-of-18 free throws in the final quarter to close out the win.

“I just think we came together in moments when it mattered,” said A-West junior Jordan Stremel, who went 4-for-4 from the line in the final minutes to finish with 11 points. “We played smart, played together and made the easy play. That is what we needed after having a tough loss a week ago.”

A-West suffered a 62-48 loss to Fruita Monument back on Dec. 8. The Wildcats shot just 28 percent from the field in the loss. A-West has bounced back with victories over Centaurus and Castle View heading into a tough test against Cherokee Trail. The Cougars put up 92 points in its 42-point victory over Pomona on Thursday night to open up the Charger Challenge.

Photo by Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Public Schools

“The biggest thing for us right now is still trying to find an identity,” A-West first-year coach Danny Vais said. “We play really well in games when things are going your way, then when things don’t go your way you kind of take a step back. We are finding that identity and the Xs and Os will come as the kids get a little more comfortable.”

Vais, who has been A-West’s baseball coach for a few years, took over the basketball program this season. Vais is one of the best multiple sport athletes to ever come out of A-West. He was an all-state basketball and baseball player at A-West in the early 2000s.

He went on to a six-year baseball career in the Minnesota Twins’ organization before eventually returning home.

“We are young group and with Coach Vais as our new coach we are coming together,” Stremel said. “We have been working since the summer. It has been a learning experience for all of us.”

Vais wants balanced scoring and he got that in the win over Castle View. Sophomore Keegan Balistreri led the way with 15 points for the Wildcats. Besides Stremel’s 11 points, senior James Hadzic (9 points) and sophomore Noah Meurer (8 points) had solid nights as nine different Wildcats scored.

“Consistent effort. That is really what we are fighting for,” Vais said. “Makes and misses will come with different ups and downs in games. I understand that as a former scorer myself.”

After finishing out at the Charger Challenge on Saturday, the Wildcats have a home game against Boulder on Tuesday, Dec. 19, before heading to Winter Break. The Class 6A Jeffco League schedule opens up at Chatfield for A-West on Jan. 10.

“We’ve got RV and Valor which will be tough games ahead. That is what we are working toward,” Stremel said.