HIGHLANDS RANCH -- "The play wasn't originally designed for me," he said. "It was originally supposed to be a 3-pointer. The way Regis was guarding us, I happened to split through at the last second and Ray found me. It was money the moment it left my hand.”
That hand belonged to senior guard Jonathan Moore, Mountain Vista’s sixth man who buried a game winning 7-footer with 1.5 seconds left to clinch a 60-58 win over Regis Jesuit in a battle between two contenders in the always competitive Continental League.
The gym erupted and Mountain Vista’s enormous student section, certainly one of the best student sections in all of Colorado, rushed the court and celebrated with Moore, who yelled out in joy.
“I was yelling, 'Let’s go! Let’s go!'" Moore said. "Because everyone always says, 'Mountain Vista isn’t all that, Mountain Vista doesn’t play really good people,' but we played really great tonight and we got the W."
Mountain Vista coach Robert Wood broke down the play after the game.
“Our best playmaker (Jake Pemberton) fouled out of the game, so we took Ray Beresford, who's normally a forward, but he’s pretty good at beating guys on the dribble," Wood said. "We put him at the point and ran 1-4 low and we wanted him to get penetration and he could either shoot the jumper or kick it to the open man. We thought maybe they would leave Brady (Subart) open in the corner. They didn’t, but when he penetrated, Jon’s man stepped in to take the charge and he kicked it to Jon. Jon made a nice calm shot. That’s a lot of pressure shooting for the game. It was nothing but net.”
The matchup between the Mountain Vista Golden Eagles and the Regis Jesuit Raiders Tuesday night looked to be a possible wire-to-wire game between the No. 4-ranked Eagles -- in this week’s CHSAANow.com poll -- and the No. 5 Raiders. For a half, this on-paper scenario didn’t play out.
Mountain Vista used smothering defense and a scoring attack led by athletic junior swingman, Ray Beresford, and slashing guard Carson Simon to take a commanding 36-20 lead into the half at home. Simon had 10 points, Beresford had nine points, and big man Graham Smith chipped in eight points in the first half.
Regis, a team with a perimeter-oriented attack that relies on several shot makers and versatile players on offense, was ice cold shooting the ball in the first half. The Raiders average six-and-a-half made threes per game, but didn’t knock down their first triple until 30 seconds remained in the half. They only went 3-of-16 on three-pointers on the night and needed to find another way to ignite their offense.
Junior guard Bryan Staerkel had nine first-half points and fourteen for the game, but needed help on offense. Kip Boryla, Taylor Kallsen and Devin Kadillak provided that in the second half by attacking the rim, knocking down mid-range jumpers, and getting to the free-throw line. They outscored the Golden Eagles 19-10 in the third quarter and slowly chipped away at the lead until they were within a few points late.
Regis cut the deficit to one a few times in the fourth and tied the game at 58 with 28 seconds remaining. Mountain Vista called timeout with 12 seconds left and set up the play that proved to be game-winning.
Coach Wood was pleased with the win, but was a little nervous in the second half.
“They never led in the second half, so that helped," he said. "We got tight a couple of times. We kept scoring enough to stay in the lead until they tied it on that last foul. Then, you’ve got one chance. I can guarantee you we wanted to win it in regulation, because we didn’t really want to go to overtime with Jake (Pemberton) fouled out.”
“I thought we played a great first half,” the coach added. “Defensively, we played really well. We were all over their shooters, we stopped penetration. We had one of our guys, whose normally in our rotation, get hurt in the first half and I think we got fatigued. We didn’t have our normal rotation, so basically in the second half we played six guys.
“But, we made enough plays to win it.”
The win moves Mountain Vista to 15-1, 4-0 in the Continental League. The Golden Eagles hit the road to take on Douglas County on Friday night at 7 p.m.
Regis is 13-3 with one of their losses out of-state, but dropped their second game in a row after a 63-48 home defeat to Chaparral last Friday night. The Raiders are 2-2 in conference play. They take on Legend at home this Friday at 7 p.m., a team that shares the Continental League lead with Mountain Vista and Highlands Ranch at 4-0.
Simon and Beresford led the Golden Eagles with 12 points apiece. Smith scored 10 points and the Denver recruit, Pemberton, only scored seven points but contributed five rebounds, five assists and four steals, and impacted the game with his court vision and passing ability.
Staerkel led all scorers with 14 points and pulled down nine rebounds in the loss. Kadillak finished with 10 points, Kallsen had nine, Boryla had seven, and Jared Small, an athletic 6-foot-5 sophomore, also scored seven. Eljiah Sanford grabbed 10 rebounds for the Raiders.
In the meantime, Mountain Vista can enjoy a win over one of 5A’s powerhouse programs before taking on Douglas County.
“It honestly means everything,” Moore said. “I’ve been at Mountain Vista for four years playing basketball and I’ve never had a big hand in beating Regis. It feels amazing to beat them in my last year of high school.
“I talked to the guys before the game -- you beat Regis, Regis is maybe first or second (in the league),” explained Wood. “I think they placed first four of the last five years and second the other time. That’s a two-game gap on them so that’s big, but there are other teams in the conference that are very capable of winning the conference.
“We come down the stretch with Chaparral, Legend and Highlands Ranch. That’s our last three, so there’s nothing decided. We’ve got a lot of games that we have to win. There’s a lot of people in between. There’s no gimmes in this league, so we have to be ready every night.”