DENVER — Nobody said winning back-to-back league titles is easy.

Dakota Ridge boys basketball team experienced the difficultly of repeating as Class 5A/4A Jeffco League champions Wednesday night at D’Evelyn Junior/Senior High School.

“We just had some things not swing our way,” Dakota Ridge junior Andrew Schneider admitted. “We had to battle and lock in at the end. We had a horrible first half.”

The Eagles — No. 9 in this week’s 5A Colorado Preps coach and media pool — actually trailed for the majority of the game before a second-half rally pulled out a 70-58 road victory against the upset-minded Jaguars.

Schneider finished with a game-high 19 points and junior Ethan Berninger turned it on to score 10 points in the fourth quarter to hold off D’Evelyn (9-10, 6-2 in 5A/4A Jeffco).

“It is great to control your own destiny,” Dakota Ridge coach Sean Kovar said of the Eagles staying undefeated in league play with a 9-0 record to avoid any three-way tiebreaker situations for the league title. “We knew what we were playing for tonight. I’m just really, really happy to do it again in such a tough league.”

Photo by Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Public Schools

Dakota Ridge (14-5, 9-0) has a 1-game lead over Green Mountain (12-8, 8-1), but with the Eagles defeating the Rams head-to-head in their league meeting early this season, nobody can catch Dakota Ridge when it comes to winning a second straight conference crown.

D’Evelyn came out with intentions of knocking off Dakota Ridge. The Jaguars held slim leads after the first and second quarters. Berninger picking up his third foul with 7:20 left in the second quarter gave more hope that an upset was possible.

Junior Vince Scaturro led the way for the Jaguars with a dozen points off the bench in the first half. Scaturro finished with a team-high 17 points.

“I kind of expect that in every league game,” Kovar said of getting challenged by D’Evelyn on the Jaguars’ Senior Night. “I’m just really proud of our guys. They stayed the course and didn’t panic. The big word for us during pregame was ‘calm’. There were some moments where we weren’t.”

Dakota Ridge took the lead heading into the fourth quarter, but D’Evelyn tied things up at 46-46 early in the fourth quarter. However, Dakota Ridge went on a 12-0 run to grab its first double-digit lead of the game.

Schneider’s third 3-pointer of the game with 3:43 left in the game gave Dakota Ridge its biggest lead of the game at 61-47.

“He (Schneider) is smooth. He is a natural scorer,” Kovar said of his junior guard. “We wanted to give him some comfortable open looks.”

Dakota Ridge graduated nine seniors from last year’s conference-winning squad. The new-look Eagles were handed the Jeffco League plaque by Dakota Ridge’s athletic director Matt Heckel after the game.

“It’s a good way to end the (league) season,” Schneider said of clinched another league title.

Dakota Ridge has a tough non-league game on the road against 6A’s No. 3-ranked Mountain Vista on Friday night before finishing up league play at home Saturday afternoon against Pomona.

The Eagles will play two more games during the 5A/4A Jeffco League mini-tournament next week before getting seeded into the 32-team 5A state tournament.

D’Evelyn was hanging on to No. 30 in the CHSAA Selection & Seeding Index for the 4A state tournament before action began Wednesday. The Jaguars have their big rivalry game at Green Mountain High School on Friday night and another huge conference road game Saturday at Golden High School.