DENVER – Manual basketball is back.
The premier Colorado high school basketball program of the 1960s and '70s, the team fell on hard times when Denver Public Schools shut the school down.
The Thunderbolts brought pride back to the program on Thursday, defeating Colorado Academy 70-66 at the Denver Coliseum in the Class 3A Great 8.
Colorado Academy had beaten Manual twice during the regular season, by 30 and 12 points. The difference Thursday, according to freshman Jadedon Bradley, was effort.
“They know what’s up,” T-Bolts coach Anson Ramiro said. “It’s been a roller-coaster ride, shutting down the school.”
The players, only one of which is a senior, understand the importance of Manual basketball to the community.
The Thunderbolts went on a 23-point scoring splurge in the second quarter to overtake the Mustangs 38-29 at half.
Colorado Academy answered by outscoring the T-Bolts 17-2 through the first half of the third quarter, but Manual closed out the quarter on a 9-2 run to retake the lead 49-48 entering the fourth.
The Mustangs pulled to within three twice but the Bolts hit the offensive boards and got free throws down the stretch to secure the win.
Bradley finished with 26 points to lead all scorers.
“We’re trying to get Manual back on top,” he said.
As for Ramiro, he believes in his young team.
“We’re changing history,” he vowed.
Alamosa, however, pulled off the upset of the day to open the 3A boys state basketball tournament on Thursday.
The Mean Moose outscored top-seeded Denver School of Science and Technology-Stapleton in overtime to overtake the Knights 73-70.
Alamosa put on a furious fourth-quarter rally, scoring 29 points to tie the game at the end of regulation.
The Mean Moose spread the wealth with six players scoring at least eight points, Ryan Brubacher leading the way with 19.
DSST got a monster game from Blake Pullen, who led all scorers with 26.
Lutheran got on top of Grand Valley early in defeating the Cardinals 66-55.
A balanced scoring effort saw Will Willis lead the way with 19 points; Josh Bjorgum added 18 and Tanner Rich 14.
Grand Valley got 13 apiece from John Parker and Tanner Magee.
Colorado Springs Christian upended third seed Manitou Springs 48-41.
The Mustangs held the lead through most of the first half until a late surge gave the Lions an 18-16 halftime lead.
CSC extended its lead in the third quarter and went up 35-25 a half-minute into the fourth, but Manitou quickly pulled to within three before a couple of clutch baskets sealed the win for CSC.
It was the Lions’ second victory over Manitou this season.
“It was very similar to the first time we played them (a 47-36 CSC win),” Lions coach Mark Engesser said of the Mustangs grabbing a lead and CSC coming back just before the half.
Engesser’s son Justin, a junior forward, said it was a matter of he and his teammates adapting to a state tournament atmosphere.
“It was just settling in and adjusting to what they were doing,” said the younger Engesser, who tied for team-high scoring honors with Samuel Howard; each had 14 points.
The Mustangs’ Cole Sienknecht led all scorers with 15.
Grand Valley and Manitou Springs play a consolation game at 10:15 a.m. Friday, followed by DSST and Colorado Academy at 1:30 p.m.
In the semifinals, Alamosa and Manual meet at 5:30. The last game of the day at 8:30 features Lutheran and Colorado Springs Christian.