COLORADO SPRINGS – When Elias knocked down a 3-pointer to give Eagle Valley a one-point lead after the first quarter, Palmer boys basketball coach Eric Trujillo didn’t hold back his thoughts on his team’s play in the opening eight minutes.

“They didn’t come here just to play,” Trujillo told his players. “They came here to win!”

He challenged the Terrors to step up and be better. His team accepted that challenge. Palmer held Eagle Valley to just one point in the second quarter and ran away with an 87-55 win kicking down the door to the Class 5A Sweet 16. The No. 9 Terrors will travel to Mead on Saturday.

“[I told them] get your heads up and stop letting people play with you,” Trujillo said. “People are going to play you hard, they have no other choice. Stop letting people who can’t play with you, play with you.”

The 22-1 run in the second quarter, led by J’Twane Mike’s eight points in that stretch, completely changed the tone of the game. In that stretch, it wasn’t just the Devils that wouldn’t be able to keep pace with the Terrors (20-4 overall). There may not be a team in Colorado that can contend with that mixture of lockdown defense, quick transition buckets and knocking down open shots.

“We couldn’t really play around with these guys,” guard Jackson Weber said. “They can go a little too and we just had to lock in and set our sights on doing what we know we can do.”

The Terrors started the game with two blocks on the first two possessions. They built a 16-6 lead at one point, but the No. 24 Devils (14-10) closed out the quarter on a 13-2 run to take a 19-18 lead, their only one of the game.

(Dan Mohrmann/

By the end of the second, the Terrors had a 20-point lead and kept their foot on the gas in the second half. Ayden Yunker silently led the team in scoring with 21 points. He connected on five of the Terrors’ eight 3-pointers. Walker Asp had 16 and Mike had 15. Dylan Zoller led the Devils with 18 points.

“We talk about how everything starts on defense,” Yunker said. “It all matters on the defensive side for us. We know the offense will come if we can put together stops.”

That leads to transition baskets, two of which came on perfectly thrown deep passes from Weber that sent the Palmer students into a frenzy. Outside of the first quarter, the Terrors ran their offensive sets at the efficiency that Trujillo often says is crucial to the team’s success. Ball movement is crucial to getting open looks and he thought his guys did a great job of that on Wednesday.

“We had to get on a couple guys for holding onto the ball a little too long on transition stuff,” Trujillo said. “But once we got on them and got it out [on the run], they just couldn’t stay with us.”

And of all things that Trujillo saw that he liked in the win, was the emergence of an on-court killer. The playoff stakes immediately get high when the ball is thrown in the air to start the game, and he thought he saw a couple guys who played with intensity that all doubt was removed from the eventual outcome.

“We’re looking for that [Mesa Ridge guard] Tevin Riehl type where they’ll look at someone and say, ‘You’re done? Ok, we’re going to make sure you’re done,'” Trujillo said. “We’re starting to see attitudes and the development of that person coming out. J’Twane Mike is that person that can say ‘You’re challenging me so now I gotta go.’ Jackson Weber is like that every day in practice. He drives guys nuts.”

The Terrors have won playoff games in recent years, but haven’t been able to reach the Great 8 at the Denver Coliseum since the days that Reggie Jackson was suiting up for them. They’ll get a crack at it on Saturday when they go on the road to take on No. 8 Mead.

(Dan Mohrmann/