LAKEWOOD — It was a playoff-like atmosphere Wednesday night at Green Mountain High School.
The student sections were loud and the Class 4A Jeffco League game between close rivals D’Evelyn and Green Mountain came down to the wire. The D’Evelyn Jaguars, ranked No. 4 in this week’s CHSAANow.com 4A boys basketball rankings, survived the scare with a 66-60 win against the Rams.
“Everyone is going to be gunning for us. Everyone is going to give us their best,” D’Evelyn senior Ty McGee said after the Jaguars (12-2, 7-0 in league) remained alone on top of 4A Jeffco. “This is how the playoffs are going to be. It’s going to be loud. The crowds are going to be crazy. You have to be mentally focused to get the win.”
McGee (14 points) and junior Grant Witherspoon stepped it up in the fourth quarter to prevent Green Mountain (8-7, 5-2) from pulling off the upset. The two leading scorers for D’Evelyn combined for 15 points in the final quarter.
Witherspoon has had the hot-shooting hand lately. The junior put up 30 and 31 points, respectfully, in the Jaguars’ wins over Wheat Ridge and Arvada last week. Foul trouble hampered Witherspoon, but he still managed a team-high 16 points.
Senior Brian Smith had a strong second half for D’Evelyn and sophomore Cameron Brown contributed a pair of big 3-pointers late in the first half that allowed the Jaguars to take a 30-27 lead at halftime. Brown buried a pair from downtown in the final minute of the second quarter.
“We needed someone to step up and Cameron gutted those two,” D'Evelyn coach Troy Pachner said. “That’s what you want out of your sophomore. You want him to be a moment player and that is what he was.”
On the defensive side, D’Evelyn had some issues. Green Mountain’s 6-foot-6 senior Mitch Schafer had a season-high 18 points.
“This is one of my best games honestly,” Schafer said. “They really couldn’t keep up with me.”
Schafer was able to post up and didn’t have to face many double-teams with the Jaguars focused on not letting sophomore sharp shooter Austin Fritts get loose. Fritts finished with only five points, but the Rams had success on the inside with Schafer and senior Daniel Brughelli (13 points).
“We did not do a good job with either interior kids. They were outstanding and we kept on giving them a lot of looks,” Pachner said. “You thought playing Golden, and the like, we would have been prepared for that.”
D’Evelyn has split its first two games against Golden’s effective inside offensive attack.
Green Mountain senior Alex Erickson scored 10 of his 11 points in the second half. The Rams cut the Jaguars’ lead down to four points late, but couldn’t come up with the victory.
“My kids battled so hard. I’m so proud of them. They did a great job,” Green Mountain coach Derek Van Tassel said. “We just came up a little short tonight, but the good thing is we’ll get to play them again.”
The Rams will get another shot at D’Evelyn, but next time it will be in ‘The Jungle’ on Feb. 13.
“At D’Evelyn is going to be a tougher game, but I think we can handle it,” Schafer said. “It’s a smaller gym so it’s going to be way louder. It’s going to be great.”
Pachner believes the tough conference test will serve his squad well.
“Surviving close games in a hostile environment gets you ready for games down the line,” Pachner said.
D’Evelyn puts its nine-game winning streak on the line at home against Alameda at 7 p.m. Friday. Green Mountain looks to get back on the winning track when it hosts Wheat Ridge at 7 p.m. Friday.