ARVADA — Ralston Valley senior Jerrod Parker wasn’t where he wanted to be in the final minutes of likely his last home game of his prep basketball career.
Parker fouled out with 3 minutes, 43 seconds left in the first-round Class 5A boys playoff game against Fruita-Monument. The senior finished with a team-high 19 points, but had to trust in his teammates to finish the deal against the Wildcats.
“It’s not the place you want to be, for sure,” Parker said of being on the bench down the stretch. “I was pretty confident from that point that we had it.”
The No. 30th-seeded Mustangs did end up closing the deal with a 69-59 victory. It was the first postseason victory since 2014 for Ralston Valley.
“We just didn’t want to lose. We go out here every time wanting to win,” said Ralston Valley senior Travis Torline, who finished with 15 points. “It was a great crowd here tonight. It was awesome to get this win.”
The Mustangs had tremendous balance with four players in double-digit points. Besides Parker and Torline, senior Trey Sayers finished with 10 points and senior Filip Rebraca came off the bench for a dozen points.
No. 35 seed Fruita (10-14) was led by senior Gunner Rigby, who finished with a game-high 22 points. Senior Trey Morrill was the only other Wildcat in double-digits with 13 points.
“We don’t have a guy who is scoring a lot of points, but we do have a lot of balance,” Ralston Valley coach Mitch Conrad said.
Parker worked his magic in the paint with a number of driving layups and also drew plenty of fouls. The 6-foot-2 senior was 7-for-11 from the free-throw line. Despite the hight advantage, the 6-foot-6 Morrill didn’t have much luck trying to slow down Parker.
“I’ve been undersized for a long time,” Parker admitted. “I’ve been this height since like sixth grade. I went from a tower to short, but my moves have always been in the post. I’ve had to make it work.”
The work done Wednesday night gives the Mustangs a shot against one of the favorites to win the whole thing.
No. 3 George Washington is waiting in the wings to host Ralston Valley on Saturday on the Patriots’ home court. George Washington (21-2 record) finished its regular season on an 11-game winning streak, which included scoring more than 100 points in three of its final five games.
“They are going to be a good team,” Torline said of GW. “They are 21-2 playing in a tough league, but I think we have the firepower. It’s going to be an exciting game I think.”
Ralston Valley came into the postseason season having defeated rival Arvada West in its regular-season finale to help secure a home game for the opening round. The Mustangs (14-10) finished third in the Class 5A Jeffco League.
“The tempo will be key for us,” Conrad said matching up against the Patriots. “We can’t get in a track meet with them. It can’t be a game in the 90s.”
Two-time defending league champion Chatfield (22-1) and Lakewood (17-6) were the only two 5A Jeffco teams to get a top-16 seed and first-round bye. The Chargers and Tigers will host games Saturday night.
The rest of the 5A Jeffco teams didn’t have much luck Wednesday night. A-West, Columbine and Dakota Ridge all lost their first-round games on the road to leave just Chatfield, Lakewood and Ralston Valley remaining in the tournament for the 5A Jeffco League.