LITTLETON — Dakota Ridge boys basketball coach Sean Kovar took a bit of a risk Friday night.

The Eagles trailed area rival Chatfield 30-29 on the Chargers’ home court. Another problem, Dakota Ridge’s leading scorer Ethan Berninger was in major foul trouble.

“We figured we would wait and see what happens,” Kovar said of having Berninger sit the bench to start the second half with three fouls. “I wasn’t nervous. We trust everyone we put on the court.”

Kovar’s gamble paid off as the Eagles outscored Chatfield 19-7 in the quarter with Berninger not seeing the court until the fourth quarter. Dakota Ridge (3-3 record) went on to win 63-51.

“It was a little frustrating, but I really believed in my teammates. They really stepped up,” said Berninger, who still lead the Eagles with 15 points despite the foul trouble in the first half. “They gave us a nice lead going into the fourth quarter. That was all my teammates. That is what won us the game, that third quarter.”

Photo by Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Public Schools

Juniors Alijah Sawyer (12 points), Andrew Schneider (9 points), along with senior Nathan Bantock (10 points) held things together for the Eagles during the third quarter. Dakota Ridge limited Chatfield (0-4) to just two field goals in the third.

“We talked about getting stops and buying in on the defensive end,” Kovar said of his halftime talk with Chatfield holding a slim lead. “That defense turned into some easier buckets on the other end.”

Dakota Ridge took a 48-37 lead into the final quarter. The Chargers made a bit of a run behind senior Drew Rohlman, who finished with a dozen points off the bench. Chatfield cut the Eagles’ lead to 53-47 with 2:12 left in the game, but Dakota Ridge finished the game on a 10-4 run to close out the victory.

Senior Tony Rondinelli led the Chargers with 15 points, but was held to just 1 point in the second half.

Chatfield is still looking for its first victory of the season. The Chargers will get plenty of chances to get in the win column next week. Chatfield hosts Brighton on Tuesday, Dec. 12, before hosting its own 3-day tournament that begins Thursday, Dec. 14, against Prairie View.

Dakota Ridge has been road warriors so far this season.

The Eagles won’t play a game on their home court until after Winter Break, but that hasn’t stopped the Dakota Ridge — preseason No. 8 in the Class 5A rankings — from picking up victories.

“I’m very happy with where we are at,” Kovar said of his team’s 3-3 record that included splitting four games in Texas last week and a tough loss against Thomas Jefferson to start the season. “

The Eagles are back on the court Tuesday, Dec. 12, against rival Columbine.

“It was be another rivalry game and we’ll have to bring it again,” Berninger said of facing the Rebels at Columbine next week. “Records are all out the window during rivalry games. We just have to bring our ‘A’ game.”

Dakota Ridge swept both rivalry games against Chatfield and Columbine last year. The Eagles will try to repeat the feat next week.

“The Chatfield and Columbine rivalry week is something we take great pride in,” Kovar said of facing his two rivals that are up in 6A Jeffco while the Eagles are in the 5A/4A Jeffco League for the current 2-year cycle. “It feels good to get them (Chatfield) again. Now we look ahead to Columbine.”

Berninger is one of the top returning players in 5A. He was averaging more than 26 points per game heading into Friday’s game. Dakota Ridge was a senior-laden team last year that included Berninger playing a big role as a sophomore.

“It’s an adjustment,” Berninger said about playing with nearly a totally new cast after the Eagles graduated nine seniors from last year’s 5A state quarterfinal team that lost to eventual state champion Mesa Ridge. “I feel like we are coming together pretty good. The chemistry is coming along a lot better than it was at the start.”