AURORA — Preseason rankings might be only a rough sketch of where the season is headed, but that doesn’t mean everybody isn’t paying attention.
Based on the packed crowd at Overland High School Tuesday night, people were mindful of a least the potential for a great matchup. Fans got that and more, but it was Raiders fans who went home happy, as the CHSAANow.com’s preseason Class 5A No. 2-ranked Raiders defeated preseason No. 1 Overland 61-45.
“You’re going to look at those, but preseason rankings in my opinion don’t mean a lot,” said Regis senior Kip Boryla after the game. “But they’re a great team, we know that. We’re going to love this win and continue this throughout the season.”
Facing an Overland team loaded with talent, including two players – guard Austin Conway and center/forward De’Ron Davis – that garnered second team all-state honors last season, the Raiders were able to keep their cool long enough to pull away from the Trailblazers in the second half despite a shaky start.
“It was a great win. Not a great game, but a great win first game out,” said Regis head coach Ken Shaw. “We competed hard. They’re hard to look good against.”
Both teams started out slowly, but the Raiders carried a 13-10 lead into the second quarter when the Trailblazers started to pick up the pace on both ends of the court. Overland’s active defense forced a few key turnovers, and Davis started to take over, nailing a three and repeatedly bullying his way into the post.
But just when it looked like the Trailblazers would carry momentum into halftime, senior Regis guard Taylor Kallsen came up big. The Raiders leading scorer from last season stole in inlet pass and scored to cut the Overland lead to five, then two possessions later nailed a three to tie things at 23.
“Taylor’s a veteran guy. He’s a calming influence, both with ball-handling and shooting. We expect a lot out of him,” said Shaw. “I’d tell you it was a below-average game from him in terms of what he’s capable of, but again, Overland’s a hard to play against. They do a lot of things to get you out of your comfort zone.”
Overland still carried a 29-28 lead into halftime, but Regis came out of the break looking much more comfortable against the aggressively trapping Trailblazers. The Raiders consistently found the open man out of the double team and built a 43-36 edge heading into the fourth.
“First half was so chopped up for us. It seemed like we’d play well for a few minutes, and then we had a span where we turned it over three times,” said Shaw. “In the second half I thought the consistency was much better.”
“Our main thought for the game was composure and confidence,” added Kallsen. “Against an athletic team like Overland, they’re a great team. You just have to stay calm and composed in that situation.”
It helped that Regis was able to get Davis in foul trouble for much of the second half. The 6-foot-nine junior had to sit for a large stretch of the third before fouling out for good with 3:50 left in the fourth. Davis finished with 22 points.
“He’s an outstanding player. You’ve got to double down on him,” said Boryla, who finished with 15 points and nine rebounds. “That was our game-plan going in and we executed. We managed to take some charges and get him in foul trouble and that was a big part of the game for us.”
The Raiders will try and keep things going Thursday at home against Columbine, while the Trailblazers heads to the Free Tax USA.com Shoot-Out before taking on Chaparral next month.