ARVADA — There was no answer for Poudre’s 6-foot-6 junior Damian Forrest when he got locked in Wednesday night at Arvada West High School.
Forrest poured in 21 points as the No. 39-seeded Impalas pulled off the 54-50 road victory of No. 26 seed A-West in the opening round of the Class 5A boys basketball state tournament.
“I my gosh. That was unreal,” Forrest said of his 9-point third quarter that helped give the Impalas an 8-point lead heading into the final quarter. “My coaches were behind me the whole way. They told me to keep shooting and it got my confidence up. It was amazing.”
After a strong first quarter, Forrest and the rest of the Impalas (12-12 record) could only muster up two points in the second quarter. The Wildcats (15-9) got right back into the game trailing 22-21 at halftime.
However, Forrest went to work against the undersized A-West squad.
“We tried to do what we could,” A-West senior James Pelon said of defending Forrest. “He is a beast.”
Pelon did what he could in the fourth quarter to keep from having the Wildcats’ season end on their home court. The senior poured in a dozen of his game-high 22 points in the final eight minutes.
A-West got within two points on a couple of occasions in the final quarter, but Poudre seemed to always answer to maintain its slim lead. Senior Sebastian Wells had a key layup with 28 seconds left and junior Jack Fisher made a pair of free throws to seal in the win.
“It’s awesome. I’m so happy for the kids,” said Poudre coach Jeff Brubaker, who is in his second season at the helm of the Impalas' program. “Our kids have worked so hard. It’s awesome how they competed for each other tonight.”
Poudre finished in a 4-way tie for eighth place in the 5A Front Range League this year. Last season the Impalas had a 3-20 record and didn’t qualify for the playoffs.
“It’s insane,” Forrest said of advancing to face No. 7 Doherty in the second round. “Going from last year with three wins to playoffs and now second round. It’s insanity. It’s beyond words. We are so excited.”
Doherty (19-4) will host Poudre at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, in Colorado Springs with the winner advancing to the Sweet 16.
A-West had a wild 5A Jeffco League ride that ended with the Wildcats sharing the conference crown with Columbine. Both finished 10-4 in league play. A-West actually grabbed the highest seed from Jeffco in the 5A tournament with a No. 26 seed.
“We still get to hang up a banner,” Pelon said of the Wildcats sharing the 5A Jeffco title with Columbine. “Obviously we wanted to do better in playoffs. We’ll be proud to hang up that banner.”
A-West will lose senior Pelon, Hayden Spiegler, Isaiah Brewer and Zander Lynch to graduation. Josh Rogers and Ethan Lindeblad return to give the Wildcats some solid players to build on for next season.
It was a better night for the rest of the 5A Jeffco teams. Columbine and Dakota Ridge got home victories. Bear Creek and Chatfield managed upsets on the road to advance four Jeffco teams into the second round.