ARVADA — All signs pointed to Arvada West’s boys basketball team having a solid chance at ending its 8-game losing streak to rival Ralston Valley that dates back to the 2019-20 season.

Ahead of the Friday night’s showdown at Ralston Valley High School, A-West came in riding a 5-game win streak. While Ralston Valley was on a 2-game losing streak since coming back from Winter Break and was still without back-to-back Jeffco League MVP Tanner Braketa who is coming off knee surgery this summer.

However, Ralston Valley used a defensive punch in the second quarter and an offensive knockout blow in the third quarter to take a 71-56 home victory.

“We knew coming in with it being a rivalry game it was going to be a dogfight,” said Ralston Valley senior Jackson Hansen, who had 12 points in the win. “All week we have been talking about keeping it up on defense because the last couple of games our offense (struggles) have effected us on defense.”

Losses earlier in the week to Cherry Creek and Valor put Ralston Valley’s back against the wall. If the Mustangs (8-4, 1-1 in Class 6A Jeffco League) wants to contend for a conference title a win against A-West was almost a must.

Photo by Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Public Schools

“All week we have talked about staying together,” Hansen said of the Mustangs being in danger of dropping to 0-2 in conference play. “We stuck together and got the win.”

A-West (9-4, 1-1) led 17-16 after the first quarter, but Ralston Valley locked down defensively in the second quarter. The Mustangs held A-West scoreless until senior James Hadzic finally hit a jumper with 40 seconds left before halftime to end a 14-0 run by Ralston Valley.

“We tried to press and (A-West) got a couple of buckets off that in the first quarter,” Ralston Valley coach Chris Braketa said. “We just stayed solid man (defense), just like we work in practice. That was a huge run for us on the defensive side of the ball.”

The Mustangs took a 30-19 lead into halftime and extended the lead to as large as 25 points in front of the standing-room only crowd. Sophomores Cole Pfeifer, Zeke Andrews, Samson Wright and Caiden Braketa combined for 21 points in the third quarter.

A-West cut the lead to 10 points on a few occasions in the fourth quarter. Jordan Stremel led the charge for the Wildcats scoring all of his game-high 15 points in the second half. Hadzic finished with 14 points and fellow senior Kaden Kline buried four 3-pointers for his dozen points.

“A-West was coming in really hot,” Coach Braketa said. “Coach Danny Vais has them playing really good basketball. I think the world of Danny and Arvada West. It’s a really, really fun rivalry for the kids.”

On when Coach Braketa’s oldest son Tanner will see his first action of the season, the hope is Tanner will be back next week.

Ralston Valley and A-West are both back on the court Wednesday, Jan. 17. The Mustangs travel to Columbine, while the Wildcats head to Bear Creek to continue conference play.