Eaglecrest boys basketball beats Rock Canyon in OT thriller to reach 5A final

Eaglecrest boys basketball team

(Matt Mathewes/MVPSportsPics.com)

DENVER — At this time each year, John Olander can't help but watch ESPN 30 for 30's Survive and Advance. He can't help it.

But Saturday night, he lived it.

After failing to take the lead in the final seconds of regulation, Eaglecrest took to overtime and erased a four-point Rock Canyon lead. With five seconds remaining, an inbounds pass went to Josh Walton, who was fouled on his shot attempt. With 0.8 seconds left, he had two chances to take the lead.

He missed the first free throw, but drained the second and the Raptors came away with a 61-60 win.

"That first one was off by six inches to the left," Walton said. "I couldn't miss the second one. I'm usually a pretty good free throw shooter."

All he needed to be at that moment was 50 percent.

The Raptors survived and now they advance to Saturday, where a showdown with George Washington looms in the Class 5A state championship game.

"I sat the other night, up late, because I saw (the 30 for 30) was on," Olander said. "Every year when I see it on, I watch it because it reminds you that anything can happen. And tonight is an indication of that. You think you're down and you're out and you have some guys make some plays for you."

It was going to take some time, but it would eventually happen.

The early flow of the game was very much not in Eaglecrest's favor. After narrowly beating Grandview last Saturday, the Jaguars looked to prove that they belonged. And Sam Masten was the guy leading that charge.

He scored a game-high 34 points and did everything humanly possible to will his team to the championship game.

"I've been so impressed with them and I'm so proud of them," Rock Canyon coach Kent Grams said. "It takes a lot to get to where these guys are and nothing should be taken away from them. Eaglecrest is a good team."

The early shooting spree from Masten and Tyson Gilbert put the Raptors in a quick hole.

Gilbert's two first-half 3-pointers came early, but were they ever so timely. The last of which came as the clock was running out in the first quarter, opening up a five-point point lead.

They went into halftime with an eight-point lead, but the Raptors came out in the second half knowing they had to find a way to counter Masten's dominance.

"Sam Masten is a great player and attacks the basket well," Colbey Ross said. "The moments we needed to show up, we did."

Late in the fourth quarter, in the most clutch of situations, it wasn't a big guy who made a play. It wasn't a role guy that made a play. It was the guy who made the play.

Walton had broken free on a fast break and was able to sink his shot while getting fouled. His free throw was off, but a hustle play by Eaglecrest got the ball into the hands of Ross. The senior guard drained a 3-pointer to give Eaglecrest a two-point lead, sending the student section into a frenzy.

But the Jaguars weren't going to just sit by and watch. They got the ball into the hands Masten. He tied the game, Eaglecrest had a chance to win but couldn't convert and off to overtime they went.

"It was survivor's instinct," Ross said. "I never panicked. I knew me and my teammates would step up."

Ross got the Raptors a quick basket from Ross, but Masten again proved to be problematic. He continued to attack the basket and scored five of the Jaguars' six points in the extra period.

Down 60-56, Eaglecrest needed another rally and Ross once again provided the spark. He scored two quick baskets to tie the game and a Rock Canyon turnover put the ball back the Raptors hands for the final fives seconds.

"The play was to get a couple of screens for Colbey," Walton said. "They were just playing off me."

Walton got the ball, got fouled and put his him team into the title game.

Which also means one last game for both the seniors and Olander who has said he won't return to Eaglecrest next year.

But that's not the focus that he wants for this team.

"We wanted one more game, but not for me," Olander said. "I'm not even thinking about that. I'm just thinking about the next game and these guys deserve everything that I have this year and not think about being done."