DENVER — The bleachers were packed for this early season match-up, where all the anticipation fated Thomas Jefferson and Rangeview for a close basketball game.
The Raiders (0-1 overall), ranked No. 9 in Class 5A, hit the hardwood fresh and full of range. But 4A's No. 4 Spartans (1-1), having lost by just three to Aurora Central two days prior, came away with the 60-57 victory.
There was no doubt the game would be physical throughout, with scrambling players on the floor merely seconds after the opening tip.
After two minutes of scoreless play, the Raiders lit up the scoreboard with a dunk. But then it was four consecutive blocks on both ends, heightened energy, and a few sloppy plays before both coaches called for their squads to slow it down. At the end of the first quarter, the Spartans led 15-12.
In the second quarter, Thomas Jefferson junior Evan Gould had the hot hand, hitting two identical threes, then hustling for a loose ball to begin the Trojans run. They were consistent, and held a lead throughout, closing the first half with a 12-point advantage.
But just like in the beginning, Rangeview started the second half with speed and height, throwing an alley-oop to ignite their catchup. From then, they went on a 6-0 run, forcing the first timeout of the game for Thomas Jefferson. At the end of three, the Spartans led by seven and the raiders were right on their heals.
An odd parallel had both teams' 6-foot-4 guards — both donning No. 1 on their uniforms as their top scorers. Thomas Jefferson sophomore Ravel Moody had 19 points and four steals, while Rangeview senior Jalen Davis tallied 13.
The fourth quarter was a long eight minutes of edge-of-your-seat play. Davis made two threes in a row to bring the game to a one point difference, and with five minutes left, they took the lead at 50-49--for the first time since early in the 1st quarter.
The Raiders answered, and in game fashion, the Spartans answered back.
With just under two minutes, Mooney stole the ball and found the easy whole down low to put the Spartans ahead 58-56. Davis drove to the hoop and was fouled, and with three seconds left he went to the line to tie the game. He made the first, but the second bounced off the rim, sending the gym into roaring cheer. The Spartans inbounded the ball, got fouled and added two points to seal the deal at 60-57.
"We hung in there when the Raiders took the lead," said Spartans coach Grant Laman. "We didn't panic. We knew the Raiders defensive pressure would be intense but we kept holding onto the ball."
Thomas Jefferson take on Littleton on Saturday. "Friday's practice will be all about man-to-man offense," says Laman. "We struggled with that tonight."