GOLDEN — Crunch time belonged to Golden seniors Jason Johnson and Ryan Thistlewood on Wednesday night.
Johnson sunk a 3-pointer with 50 seconds left to give the Demons, ranked No. 2 in this week's CHSAANow.com Class 4A boys basketball poll, a 49-48 lead.
“It was crazy. The fans went crazy,” said Johnson of his 3-pointer that was critical in Golden’s 51-48 home victory against 4A Jeffco League rival D’Evelyn. “I was just amped.”
It was the first and only field goal of the game for Johnson, a transfer from Ralston Valley. Johnson added it was his biggest shot of his prep career.
“I wanted him (Johnson) to shoot it,” Golden coach John Anderson said. “He missed a couple earlier, but he is a senior and he stepped up.”
Thistlewood stepped on both ends of the court in the final moments in the packed gym. He passed the ball to a wide-open Johnson on the huge 3-pointer and made two key free throws with 25.1 seconds left to extend the Demons’ lead to 51-48.
“That was amazing. I had faith in him (Johnson). That’s why I passed it to him,” Thistlewood said. “That was the momentum of the game in my mind.”
The defensive momentums late came in the form of a pair of Thistlewood steals. D’Evelyn turned the ball over three times in the final minute that didn’t sit well with Jaguars’ coach Troy Pachner.
“We fought, but we gave it away late,” Pachner said. “Credit Golden. We had three ridiculous turnovers. That’s a meltdown on us. We are supposed to be a skill-based team and guys lost their minds.”
D’Evelyn took its largest lead of the game at 48-42 after a pair of buckets by senior Christian Denton with 4:25 left in the fourth quarter. However, Golden’s defense buckled down and didn’t allow the Jaguars to score for the final four minutes.
Thistlewood’s defensive pressure on D’Evelyn’s guards was a big factor late in the game.
“I exhaust him (Thistlewood). My assistant coaches say take him out, but I’m not comfortable when he is out of the game,” Anderson said. “He still somehow finds a way defensively, when it matters, to go get deflections and steals.”
Senior Cole Greff (14 points) and junior Ryan Blodgett (10 points) led the Demons in scoring. D’Evelyn also had a pair in double-figures with juniors Jack Draeb (14 points) and Cameron Brown (12 points).
It was the second straight nail-bitting victory for Golden (9-2, 3-0 in league). The Demons edged Valor Christian 46-44 last Saturday.
“This team just finds a way to win basketball games at crunch time,” Anderson said. “It’s good senior leadership and kids make plays at crucial times of the game. You have confidence at the end of games.”
The loss ended a three-game winning streak for D’Evelyn (6-5, 2-1). The Jaguars struggled before winter break, but had three straight victories last week against Thomas Jefferson, Arvada and Wheat Ridge.
Golden had already faced D’Evelyn this season. The Demons took a 21-point halftime lead in the championship game of the Preview Classic tournament which D’Evelyn and Golden co-host. The Jaguars made a game of it in the second half Dec. 6, but the Demons held on for a 72-58 victory.
Thistlewood had a game-high 31 points in the win for Golden. Senior Grant Witherspoon poured in 28 points for the Jaguars in the loss. D’Evelyn was handed four losses before winter break.
D’Evelyn next conference game is 7 p.m. Friday at Standley Lake. Golden squares off against Littleton on the road with a 7 p.m. tipoff this Friday night.
“It’s a good win, but we’ve got to keep looking forward,” Thistlewood said.