Collier takes over as Denver East returns to 5A boys state semis

Denver East Highlands Ranch boys basketball

More photos. (Matt Mathewes/MVPSportsPics.com)

DENVER -- Denver East guard Dominique Collier is widely regarded as the best basketball player in the state.

The Highlands Ranch Falcons held him scoreless through the first quarter of Friday night’s game. He answered by scoring the next 26 points for his team en route to the Angels’ 64-44 win, putting them back in the state final four.

Collier now has a chance to end his career by winning a state championship on the same floor that will host his college career in the Sox Walseth Court at the Coors Events Center. But to get there, Collier had to rebound from a scoreless first quarter and find the energy he needed to lead his team with 32 points.

After sizing up the Falcons defense in the first quarter, Collier took control of the game and scored all 15 points for the Angels in the second. Despite Collier coming alive on the offensive side of the ball, the Angels still found themselves locked in a tie at halftime, with the score knotted up at 23 apiece.

“Dom lets the game come to him, that’s what makes him a great player,” Angels coach Rudy Carey said. “He doesn’t force the issue, he allows the game to come to him and that’s what he did tonight. He felt his way through the first quarter and saw what his team needed, saw that he needed to be more aggressive and he was.”

Collier’s offensive clinic carried over into the third quarter where he scored the first 11 points for the Angels in the second half. By the end of his run, he had scored 26 straight points and led his team to a 34-25 lead.

From that moment on, it was clear that the Falcons were in a fight they couldn’t win. After hanging with the Angels point for point through the first half, they were held to six points in the third quarter.

“I was just trying to provide for my teammates as much as I could on the offensive end and pick it up on defense,” Collier said. “In the first quarter, I didn’t have much energy on defense or offense so I just had to pick it up. We weren’t giving them any buckets so I wanted to get to the foul line to get my shot going.”

When it was all said and done, Collier and the Angels left the court with the final four plaque and a date with the Overland Trailblazers in a week.

A trip to the final four is just another step for this team as they look to avenge their loss in last year’s state championship game to the Eaglecrest Raptors. The Angels entered this year’s tournament as a top seed and one of the favorites to win it all, but the sting of falling short last year is keeping their focus solely on their next game.

“We’re trying to take it one game at a time and focus on our next opponent,” Carey said. “We have healthy respect for everybody left in the tournament, there are some very good teams left and we’re just trying to be the best that we can be.”

When Collier is scoring 32 points for his team in three quarters, they arguably are one of the best. After falling short last year, the Angels once again have a great opportunity to capture a state championship in Boulder.

For Collier, it’s also a chance for him to get well-acquainted with the basketball community at CU. In order for the Angels to walk away as champions, Collier will have to provide the leadership and Division-I level play that he put on display Friday night.

When asked on how much the Angels rely on Collier’s play, Carey would only say, “He’s the driver of our car.”