COLORADO SPRINGS — The race for the Class 4A Colorado Springs Metro League title may be down to just one horse.
With their 77-39 win over Widefield on Tuesday night, the Sierra Stallions (12-3 overall, 6-0 4A Colorado Springs Metro League) now have a stronghold on the league standings.
Hyped as a battle of two league contenders, the Stallions were explosive on offense and suffocating on defense, proving to be far too much for the Gladiators (13-3, 5-2) to handle.
"We didn't show up tonight," Widefield coach Mark Munoz said. "We knew they were going to hit us and we got impatient on offense and we can't do that. We were one and done (on offense) too many times."
After fighting through turnovers at both ends of the court, the two teams were tied 4-4 early in the contest. That's when the Stallions turned on the after-burners, finishing the quarter on a 16-4 run.
Stallions coach Terry Dunn emphasizes defense from his players and they didn't disappoint him in the second quarter. Offensively they maintain a strong pace with 16 points, but it was the defense that stole the spotlight before halftime. The Stallions didn't surrender a Gladiators field goal until there was only 31 seconds left in the half.
"We're a good defensive team," sophomore C.J. Jennings said. "Sierra basketball starts with our defense."
When told the Stallions went over seven minutes without allowing a field goal, he seemed taken back.
"I knew we're good, but I didn't know we were that good," he said.
Jennings finished with 17 points and was one of four Stallions to score in double figures. Keandre Lewis led all scorers with 20.
It doesn't escape the Stallions that they were able to do this against a good basketball team. The Gladiators nearly broke the top 10 in this week's CHSAANow.com rankings. A strong performance against a good team was a very pleasant sight for Dunn.
"We have a little bit of depth," Dunn said. "Widefield is a very good team. You can't focus on one or two guys. This team right here, we have guys that can score when they take the shots they're supposed to take."
Sierra hasn't lost since Dec. 12 and have begun to creep up in the weekly rankings. Their performance Tuesday night is likely to get noticed throughout the 4A classification, but that's not necessarily what the Stallions want.
Performances like the win against Widefield will go a long way in terms of league standings and playoff seeding, but for right now, Sierra is content with flying under the radar.
"We're definitely the underdogs right now and have a lot of room to improve before the playoffs roll around," Jennings said. "At this moment, I'd say I like being under the radar but going forward I think I want other teams to start taking notice of us."
For the Gladiators, their focus is to put this game behind them. They figured out that they have several things they can improve on and the best way to do that is to move on from this loss and get back out on the court.
"The good thing about playing twice a week is that we have a pre-game tomorrow and a game on Thursday," Munoz said. "So we'll see how we do."