LAKEWOOD -- Denver South turned up the defensive pressure and cleaned things up on the glass in the second half Friday night at Green Mountain High School.
The Rebels evened up their record to 5-5 this season with a 71-64 road victory in boys hoops action. Denver South trailed 40-34 at halftime, but turned things around in the second half.
“The main focus is we felt we were getting beat on the boards,” Denver South coach Malik Fletcher said after the Rebels’ first game back from winter break. “We dedicated the second half to cleaning up the rebounds on both ends.”
The Rams rarely had second-chance opportunities after halftime. Green Mountain senior Will Zeiner hurt the Rebels several put-backs in the first half. Zeiner poured in 13 points in the first half, but was held scoreless in the second half.
Denver South took the lead for good with 5:05 left in the fourth quarter when senior Antonio Garcia drained a 3-pointer to give the Rebels a 57-55 lead. Senior Tyson Purifoy hit another 3-pointer a minute later to push Denver South’s lead to 60-55.
“It felt good coming off of break,” said Purifoy, who finished with a game-high 28 points. “It was tough being behind coming into the second half. We had a slow start, but we got it done.”
Purifoy and senior Lorenzo Snoddy (20 points) led the way for the Rebels. Denver South outscored Green Mountain (3-4 record) 25-14 in the final quarter.
Denver South’s 6-foot-8 senior Ibrahim Sylla had a quiet 15 points, but had a couple of key baskets in the final two minutes to keep Green Mountain at bay.
Green Mountain sophomore Austin Fritts had a team-high 24 points for the Rams. He drained six 3-pointers and was fouled on two other 3-point attempts that led to five made free throws.
“We were prepared coming in knowing (Fritts) was going to make some shots,” Fletcher said. “We just wanted to stay positive if he knocked some down.”
With Denver South picking up its defensive intensity, Green Mountain didn’t get many open offensive looks in the second half while being held to 24 points in the second half.
“We’ve got to work harder on screens. We’ve just got to work,” Fritts said. “We had wide-open looks in the first half, but when they came up on us in the second half we needed to run more offense and be more aggressive.”
Senior Daniel Brughelli had a solid second half for the Rams. He finished with 13 points in what was Green Mountain’s third straight loss.
Green Mountain plays one final non-league game at 7 p.m. on Jan. 6, before heading into its 14-game 4A Jeffco League schedule. The Rams will host defending 5A Jeffco champion Chatfield next Monday night.
The Chargers (6-2, 2-0 in league) will come into Green Mountain High School on a four-game winning streak. It will also be Chatfield’s first game since the winter break.
“This is exactly what we need,” Fritts said. “These two games (Denver South and Chatfield) are big for us. It shows what we are going to be going up against and shows what we are made of.”
Denver South hosts Hinkley at 7 p.m. on Jan. 7.