DENVER – To get to the Class 6A boys basketball Final 4, Fossil Ridge center Nick Randall had a perfect day in the paint. To get to the state championship game, the Sabercats utilized some long-range weapons.

They knocked down eight 3-pointers as a team to get a 66-62 win over Regis Jesuit and will go back to their second state championship game in as many years. It’s the third state championship game the Sabercats (25-2 overall) have been to in program history and they’re hoping that the third time will be the charm when it comes to winning a title.

“I hope so,” coach Matt Johannsen said. “I can start thinking about it a bit. I’ve been focused on Regis so much from last last week knowing it was going to be a tough one. So hopefully, yes.”

An Eric Fiedler basketball cut the Fossil Ridge lead to five, but the Raiders were forced to foul with time running out. Ty Brown sank a pair to push the lead back up to seven with under a minute to go. Dominic Leone also hit two free throws in the final minute to keep it a three-possession game.

Brown finished with 10 points while Colin Hayes had 15 and Randall led the team with 18 points.

Each time it felt like the Sabercats had the game out of reach, the Raiders showed their persistence. Joe Dorais hit a deep 3-pointer to cut the lead to four.

But there simply wasn’t enough time left on the clock and Fossil Ridge maintained enough poise to keep the Raiders (20-7) at arm’s length.

“We have 10 seniors and they’re all here for a reason,” Johansen said. “I didn’t keep anybody just for fun. They can all play.”

It was Brown, Leone and Drew Larson knocking down shots from the outside, something that the Raiders seemed to content let happen. Given Randall’s success on the block in the postseason, it wasn’t a bad strategy to utilize.

“That’s one way to try and beat us,” Johansen said.

But his shooters stepped up to the challenge and knocked down 40% of their 3-point shots.

“I love it,” Larson said. “I think we can all knock down shots. We have the confidence and that’s key. Whenever that ball is going up, I know more than often it’s going in.”

It showed an element of versatility in the Sabercats’ game, something that they may need when they return to the Coliseum on Saturday.


(4) Denver East 86, (1) Mountain Vista 67

(Doug Ottewill/

A legendary season is still in the mix for Denver East. In the same year that Rudy Carey set the all-time wins record as a coach, the Angels will get the chance to win their first state title since 2014.

After beating Mountain Vista 86-67, the Angels will face the very same program that they beat at the CU Events Center in 2014 in Fossil Ridge.

That’s give Carey a chance for title No. 7 at East.

“It’s not about me,” he said. “It’s about those kids over there.”

Those kids came to play on the most important night of their season, so far. Gil Gonzalez scored 16 of his team-high 20 points in the second half. Jack Greenwood scored all 12 of his points in the fourth quarter. D’Aundre Samuals was his usual self and scored 16.

There’s no arguing that the Angels (25-2) are one of the two best teams in the state. At worst.

Any doubters should just find the NFHS Network replay of that second half.

“We’re really dangerous,” Greenwood said. “You have to worry about [Samuals] who is the best player in the state. That’s a handful for any defense, but when you have Austin [Mohr], Gil and Sam [Scott] were really lethal.”

They’re also motivated.

While warming up, the Angels donned shirts saying “Angels Against Gun Violence.” It comes from a place of mourning as an East student, and member of the state champion soccer team, Luis Garcia was shot on campus and later passed away. It was a rallying cry not just from the basketball team, but from the East community as a hole.

“It’s been uniting,” Greenwood said. “The whole school has come together. We had a big walkout last week and ever since then the whole school has really come together.”

Saturday could give them a chance to unite even further. The basketball players want to win for Luis and seemed inspired on the court to do so. And the only thing standing between them and a title is the team that they last beat in the state championship game and the team that beat them 63-40 back on Dec. 2.

Which as luck would have it, is the last time the Angels left the floor on the losing side.