DENVER — Hunter Shkapich calmed Valor Christian’s boys basketball coach Troy Pachner at halftime Friday night as the Eagles faced a 26-25 deficit at halftime.
“Hunter came to me at halftime and said, ‘Coach don’t sweat it. I’ve got this.’ And you know what he did,” Pachner said after the Eagles’ 61-53 road victory against D’Evelyn in the Class 4A Jeffco League game. “He (Shkapich) was on it. He hit some big ones.”
Shkapich was actually the only Valor player to reach double-digits scoring. The junior guard finished with 20 points, including five 3-pointer in the second half. Shkapich had just two points at halftime.
“First half I was off,” Shkapich admitted. “I made an adjustment to use my legs more and following through. I knew I was good.”
Valor, ranked No. 9 in the latest CHSAANow.com Class 4A boys basketball poll, won its fifth straight game after a 2-6 start to the season for the defending 4A state champions.
“We have to stay humble with it and stay confident,” Shkapich said of the current roll Valor is on.
The Eagles (7-6 record, 4-0 in league) took over the game in the third quarter thanks to some pressure defense. Pachner, former D’Evelyn coach, implemented a full-court press that caused a number of Jaguar turnovers. Valor outscored D’Evelyn 23-13 in the third quarter.
“Valor’s pressure is legitimate pressure. They do a great job with that,” D’Evelyn coach Dan Zinn said. “In the third quarter they took advantage of our mistakes and us not stepping up to that pressure. We definitely had our chances.”
Seniors Charles Dinegar and Cole Clifton combined to score 43 of 53 points for the Jaguars (5-7, 1-3). D’Evelyn held the lead early in the game and later in the second quarter, but turnovers and missed free throws took their toll.
“It’s not the first time. It’s probably our sixth or seventh loss where we handed it away with missed free throws, turnovers and mental mistakes,” said Dinegar, who finished with a game-high 22 points. “This one hurts just as much as any of them.”
The Jaguars went 12-for-27 from the free-throw line in what was D’Evelyn’s fifth single-digit loss on the season. D’Evelyn is looking to find some footing in the league after a 1-3 start in conference play. Losses to No. 4 Golden and Evergreen are the other two defeats the Jaguars have suffered in conference play.
“It’s the toughest league in 4A for a reason,” Zinn said. “We’ve been through some tough games already and we’ve got three tough more before we start all over again. We just need to come out and do the little things that we’re capable of doing.”
It will be a busy week coming up for the Jaguars. D’Evelyn has a non-league home game Class 3A’s No. 3 ranked Faith Christian before a pair of conference road games. The Jaguars are at Standley Lake (Wednesday) and Littleton (Friday) as they continue the 14-game league schedule.
“We need to get some wins to get ready for playoffs and the end of the season,” Dinegar said. “We need three wins next week to get going.”
Valor has a pair of home conference games next week with Wheat Ridge (Wednesday) and a big showdown against Evergreen (10-2, 3-0) at 7 p.m. next Friday night.
There is a chance Valor and Evergreen could both come into next week’s game still undefeated in conference play. The Cougars do face Wheat Ridge and Green Mountain before the showdown in Highlands Ranch against the Eagles.
Despite having the early driver’s seat in the conference, Pachner believes the league has more parity this year.
“I think last year you had four super teams and then there was some separation,” Pachner said. “I think teams have closed the gap from the bottom and frankly, those top teams have come to that mid-line. It’s imperative to win these kind of games on the road.”