GOLDEN — It seemed like the boys basketball regular season would never end for D’Evelyn and Golden on Thursday night at Golden High School.
The Class 4A Jeffco League rivals battled to double-overtime in the regular-season finale for both teams. Eventually, a 3-pointer by D’Evelyn senior Alec Clifton with 10 seconds left in the second overtime proved to be the difference in the 71-69 suspenseful league finale.
“When it came to me I just knew I had to step up and hit it,” said Clifton, who finished with eight points.
It was the first overtime game of the season for D’Evelyn. The Jaguars trailed by as much as 11 points in the first half, but chipped away at the lead thanks to a great performance from the free-throw line. D’Evelyn finished 26-for-32 from the charity stripe, along with six 3-pointers.
“We tell guys to be ready to shoot,” D’Evelyn coach Dan Zinn said talking about Clifton’s 3-pointer. “He (Clifton) has been on and off all season. I’m glad he was on there at the end of the second overtime.”
Clifton’s 3-pointer gave the Jaguars (19-4, 12-2 in 4A Jeffco) a 70-68 lead. The Demons (16-7, 8-6) couldn’t convert on their next offensive possession.
“We were shooting the right shots,” Golden junior Adam Thistlewood said. “They just didn’t fall.”
D’Evelyn senior Josh Brinkerhoff, who finished with a team-high 29 points, made 1-of-2 free throws with 5 seconds left to push the lead to 71-68. Thistlewood, who finished with a game-high 30 points, was fouled with 3.6 seconds left. He made the first and intentionally missed the second.
After a loose ball scramble, Golden would eventually get one last shot inbounding the ball with 0.7 seconds left. Golden junior Jack Moore, who hit four 3-pointers after halftime, got a good look from 3-point range but the shot hit off the front of the rim at the buzzer to give the Jaguars the victory.
“It was the craziest game. I was honestly terrified,” Brinkerhoff admitted. “They (Demons) have two of the best players in the state in Adam Thistlewood and Kayden Sund. It was awesome. It was the most fun game I’ve played all year.”
D’Evelyn, ranked No. 3 in the CHSAANow.com Class 4A boys hoops poll, defeated Golden in a 82-77 shootout Jan. 25 on the Jaguars’ home court. Despite a 35-point fourth quarter from the Demons, the Jaguars held on to get an important conference victory that helped D’Evelyn take second in the toughest 4A conference in the state.
“I’d rather see tough teams heading into the playoffs. I think we are ready for whatever is thrown at us the next few weeks,” Zinn said of the Jaguars finishing on a 4-game winning streak. “I know our league is good. I think we have four teams who could all make it to the Coliseum (semifinals). We’ll see if it works out that way.”
No. 1 Valor Christian, D’Evelyn, Evergreen and Golden were all in the top-13 of the RPI rankings heading into Thursday’s games. Now, after the 14-game league schedule the Jeffco teams get a shot at proving the conference’s strength during the state tournament.
“Our Jeffco League is crazy. Of course I want them all to win,” Brinkerhoff said about hoping to see the conference fair well in the playoffs. “It would be fun to see them again in the playoffs. It’s a great rivalry against almost everyone in our league.”
The 48-team 4A state bracket will be released Sunday, Feb. 19. The top 16 teams will get first-round byes. First-round games will be played at the higher seed on Wednesday, Feb. 22. Second-round games are scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 25.
“We are excited to go into playoff and make a lot of noise,” Brinkerhoff said.
Golden goes into the playoffs on a 2-game losing streak with losses to Evergreen and D’Evelyn, but the Demons are also confident they can make a deep postseason run.
“It’s definitely going to fuel us for the playoffs,” Thistlewood said.