No. 8 Dakota Ridge edges Legend in boys hoops thriller

Legend Dakota Ridge boys basketball

Dakota Ridge senior Tanner Lukens (15) spots up for a 3-pointer Tuesday night during the Eagles' 59-57 victory over Legend. (Dennis Pleuss)

LITTLETON — Dakota Ridge junior Matt Newkirk came up with perhaps his most decorated rebound and free throw of basketball career Tuesday night.

Legend spent the majority of the final 30 seconds of the fourth quarter on its offensive end attempting to break the 57-57 tie with Dakota Ridge on the Eagles’ home court. After several Titan shot attempts that just wouldn’t fall, Newkirk finally got his hands on the ball and was fouled in the paint with 0.9 seconds left on the clock.

“I was just going for the ball. Doing everything I could for my team so Legend couldn’t get another shot,” Newkirk said of the chaotic final seconds. “There were some nerves, but I slowed down and took a deep breath. Just shot the ball.”

Legend Dakota Ridge boys basketball

Legend junior Monroe Porter, left, tries to get a pass around Dakota Ridge senior Cody Pittman during the second half Tuesday night. (Dennis Pleuss)

Newkirk made both free throws in the double-bonus situation to give Dakota Ridge (4-0 overall), ranked No. 8 in this week’s CHSAANow.com Class 5A boys basketball poll, a 59-57 lead. A last-second pass and heave by the Titans hit the top of the backboard and the Eagles escaped with a two-point victory.

“I thought it was a travel,” Dakota Ridge senior Cody Pittman said of his thoughts when the whistle blew as Newkirk fell to the floor with the ball in his hands. “They called the foul and I had faith in Matt (Newkirk) that he would knock down the free throw.”

Dakota Ridge coach Curi Yutzy had asked Newkirk to miss the second free throw after making the first so Legend (1-2) wouldn’t have the opportunity to throw the ball the length of the court for a possible tip-in at the buzzer.

“It was a great job by Matt to knock down those free throws. Well, knock down the first free throw,” Yutzy could say with a smile. “We were trying to miss the second. He (Newkirk) couldn’t miss it to save his life.”

Clearly, Legend coach Kevin Boley was disappointed the whistle blew with under a second to play giving the Eagles the chance to win the game in regulation.

“I don’t know whether there is a foul or not, but you swallow your whistle in that situation and go to overtime,” Boley said. “You make the kids decide the game.”

The non-league game was close the entire contest. Neither team ever held a double-digit lead. Dakota Ridge took its biggest lead of 34-26 midway through the third quarter. Four different Eagles drained five 3-pointers in the period during Dakota Ridge’s run.

Pittman led the way with a pair of 3-pointers in the third. He ended up leading the team with 18 points. He was the only Eagle to reach double-digits.

“We are a good shooting team I think,” Pittman said of the 21-point third quarter. “It was one our streaks.”

Legend Dakota Ridge boys basketball

Legend junior Danny Garrick, middle, attempts to fend off Dakota Ridge junior Devante Jones (23) and senior Mason Grothuesmann (31) as they try to get a jump ball during the first half Tuesday night. (Dennis Pleuss)

Legend junior Monroe Porter was on a streak most of the night. He finished with a game-high 23 points, including six 3-pointers. Junior Jared Small, in his first game on the court for the Titans after transferring from Regis Jesuit, had a breakout fourth quarter.

“Clearly he (Porter) was the one making the plays,” Boley said. “We got into our press in the fourth quarter. Jared (Small) started making some plays and getting to the rim. We got some energy going on the defensive end.”

Despite playing with four fouls the entire final quarter, Small poured in 13 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter.

“It was tough to find an answer to guard him (Small),” Yutzy said. “He did a great job attacking the paint.”

A big loss for the Titans was when Small fouled out with 34 seconds left in the game. Dakota Ridge senior Tanner Lukens hit both free throws after getting fouled by Small to tie the game at 57-57.

“When we schedule games the previous year we look for these type of games,” Yutzy said. “I have upmost respect for coach Boley and the Legend program. I love competing against the best. I love the challenge and gives us the opportunity to get better.”

Dakota Ridge finishes off its schedule before winter break with four straight road games starting with a 7 p.m. tipoff Thursday, Dec. 11 in Colorado Springs against Doherty.

Legend competes in the Smoky Hill Shootout starting Thursday. The Titans open the three-day tournament at 6 p.m. Thursday against Horizon at Smoky Hill High School.

Legend Dakota Ridge boys basketball

Dakota Ridge senior Cody Pittman, left, drives on Legend junior Monroe Porter during the first half Tuesday night at Dakota Ridge High School. Pittman scored a team-high 18 points, while Porter had a game-high 23 points for the Titans. In the end, Dakota Ridge pulled out a 59-57 victory. (Dennis Pleuss)