DENVER -- A mixture of rain and snow fell outside the Denver Coliseum, but nothing can rain on the parade for the Overland Trailblazers who are headed to their first final four since 1990 after a 64-47 win over the Rangeview Raiders Friday night.
Coming into the game, the Trailblazers were faced with the challenge of slowing down Rangeview guard Jeremiah Paige, a “top-two player in the state” according to Overland coach Danny Fisher. Paige’s 23 points-per-game average this season was going to be the toughest obstacle for the Trailblazers in their quest to play next weekend at the Coors Events Center in Boulder.
It was up to senior guard Taren Williams to take out the Raiders leading scorer and was up to the task early. Paige was only able to muster eight points in the first half of the game and was showing frustration with the aggressive defense Williams was playing.
“My job was to keep him mad and not let him get the ball,” Williams said. “(I had to) keep him frustrated the whole game so it was tougher for him to score points.”
With Paige feeling the pressure from Williams, on the defensive side, it was sophomore De’Ron Davis who paced the Trailblazers in every other aspect of the game. Overland built a 16-9 lead after the first quarter on the strength of Davis’ eight rebounds in the period.
It was during the second quarter that the Raiders made an effort to score in the low-post, but Davis was having none of it. All three of his first half blocks were accumulated in the quarter as the Trailblazers built an eight-point lead going into halftime.
“I’ll watch it on film, but I’m almost certain that De’Ron played a perfect game,” Fisher said. “He’s an amazing and talented kid and people think he’s supposed to score 30 every game, but what he gives us -- him making the right play every single possession -- that’s what makes us go.”
The Raiders got a small break at the start of the third quarter as forward Ryan Swan’s third foul kept him out of the game for most of the period. But the Trailblazers continued to haunt Rangeview in transition. Each time the Raiders seemed to close the gap, fast break buckets would once again extend the lead for Overland. The Raiders never let it get larger than 10, but had difficulty getting closer than six.
It was in the fourth quarter that Rangeview turned up the pressure and began to claw its way back.
With four minutes remaining in the game, the Raiders trailed 51-45 and had a chance a really closing the gap. But with Davis leading the charge, the Trailblazers just proved to be too good. With time ticking away, Rangeview had to force shots that wouldn’t fall and Davis continued to clean up the boards as he had done all game.
On the offensive end, he brought the crowd to its feel with some big-time dunks, sealing a trip to Boulder for next week’s final four.
Davis finished the game with 14 points, but it was his 21 rebounds that was the most impressive state for the Trailblazers. Paige may have been the most electrifying scorer on the court, but he proved to be easier to deal with than the size of Overland.
“From the get-go we knew they couldn’t hang with our size,” Davis said. “We said ‘inside-out, no dumb threes, no stupid jump shots.’ We just wanted to kick it inside out and let our bigs go to work.”
Overland now has a chance to add real hardware to their trophy case at next week’s final four round. It’s been 24 years since the school was contending for a state championship in the final weekend of the season. The players had certainly noticed the lack of recent banners to hang in their gym, and made it a goal early in their season to rectify the shortage.
“(Making the final four) means a lot for us,” Williams said. “Since the summer we were talking about how we didn’t have any banners and we wanted to make a change and I think (through the season) we grew and we became ready to make that change.”
The Trailblazers will play the winner of Friday’s match-up between Highlands Ranch and Denver East in next week’s final four.