LITTLETON — Antonio Norton brought the home crowd out of their seats Saturday afternoon at Dakota Ridge High School.
The Dakota Ridge senior made a layup with 1.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter Saturday to give the Eagles a 66-64 victory in the non-league boys basketball game. Norton sliced toward the basket after an entry pass from fellow senior Koby Ryckman for the eventual game-winning shot.
“We were just trying to get something inside, finish or maybe draw a foul,” said Norton, who had to take a seat on the bench for the majority of the first half after picking up a pair of early fouls. “It was a great pass by Koby.”
Arapahoe senior Drew Hayes put up a half-court shot at the buzzer, but it was off the mark. It was the third straight victory for Dakota Ridge (4-3 record).
“We’ve had three close wins so far,” Dakota Ridge senior Drew Dominic said. “We are gaining a lot of experience in these close games which I think will be very beneficial late in the season.”
The Eagles’ win streak has come during a string of three consecutive games that have all come down to the wire. Dakota Ridge has won the three games by a combined eight points.
“Escape is a good word. Honestly, I think (Arapahoe) was the team that should have won it,” Dakota Ridge coach Curi Yutzy admitted. “It is a tribute to our guys. We found a way.”
After a defensive battle through three quarters, both teams found an offensive rhythm in the fourth quarter. The Warriors (2-5) drained four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter on the way to 21 points in the final eight minutes.
Arapahoe had a balanced scoring attack with seniors Braxton Reinders (10 points) and Hayes (12 points), along with juniors Kevin Lukasiewicz (12 points) and Lane D’Agostino (11 points) all finishing in double-digit points.
Seniors Cole Binder (19 points) and Dominic (18 points) led the way for the Eagles. Binder heated up in the fourth quarter scoring 13 points. Besides getting the key assist on Norton’s game-winning shot, Ryckman finished with 10 points.
“Antonio was awesome. Antonio was excellent,” Yutzy said of Norton, who scored all four of his points in the fourth quarter. “His decision making and passing was excellent. I feel like Antonio was the key to our comeback.”
Dakota Ridge scored 25 points in the final eight minutes and overcame a 6-point deficit early in the fourth quarter.
“It was definitely a weird game for sure,” Dominic said. “What I really like about our team is we just plug away and find a way to win.”
Dakota Ridge has one final non-league game before winter break. The Eagles host Denver South at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 21.
The Class 5A Jeffco League looks to be pretty wide-open with no dominate team. Chatfield is the two-time defending conference champion, but the Chargers’ 30-game league winning streak dating back to the 2014-15 season could be in jeopardy when conference play begins Jan. 4.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to put some wins together and win a league championship,” Dominic said. “That’s our goal as a team right now.”
The Eagles begin their league schedule at home against rival Columbine on Jan. 4. Dakota Ridge placed fourth in the conference last season. The Eagles won the league title back in 2015.
“I think you are going to see games like that basically every Wednesday and Friday night in Jefferson County,” Yutzy said. “There are going to be a lot of competitive games.”
Arapahoe has a pair of non-league games at home next week. The Warriors face Heritage and Rangeview, ranked No. 9 in the latest CHSAANow.com 5A boys basketball poll.