WESTMINSTER — Standley Lake junior Brodey Hoffman was at the right place at the right time Friday night.
Hoffman’s offensive putback with two seconds left finished a 12-0 run to end the Class 4A Jeffco League game, giving the Gators a remarkable 52-50 win on their home court against Wheat Ridge.
“It was crazy. The atmosphere afterwards was probably just as crazy,” Hoffman said of his tip-in that resulted in the Gators’ student section storming the court after the buzzer sounded. “I couldn’t breath afterwards. I was in awe.”
The Gators (7-12 overall, 5-6 in league) called a timeout with 16 seconds left and the game tied 50-50 to set up a final play. The plan was to get the ball into senior AJ Ater, who ended with a team-high 13 points. However, Wheat Ridge’s defense denied Ater the ball. Senior Connor Durant ended up firing a fall-away jumper near the top of the key that hit the back of the iron.
“Everyone was standing around looking at the shot,” said Durant, who finished with 11 points. “He (Hoffman) was the one who crashed. It was just a great hustle play. It was awesome.”
Hoffman, who finished with six points, was the only player in the paint to tip the ball into the basket for the game-winner.
“The last play wasn’t exactly like we drew it up,” Standley Lake coach Mike Puccio admitted. “Wheat Ridge did a great job just giving up a shot going away from the basket. When I saw it go up I figured it was overtime, but Brodey Hoffman is a ball magnet. A guy who is in the right place at the right time.”
It’s been a string of close games for the Gators recently. Standley Lake’s last four conference games have all been decided by two points or less. Those included losses to Evergreen and D’Evelyn, along with wins over Green Mountain and now Wheat Ridge.
“It’s been an up-and-down season for sure with a lot of close losses and close wins,” Puccio said. “They stuck together and that’s what I’m proud of the most.”
Standley Lake looked to be headed to a loss midway through the fourth quarter against the Farmers, who were riding a four-game winning streak. Wheat Ridge (13-6, 6-5) led 50-40 with 3:55 left in the fourth quarter when senior Vedin Kozic buried his eighth 3-pointer of the game.
Kozic finished with a season-high 38 points, but the Farmers failed to score in nearly the final four minutes of the game.
“When you have a guy go off like that you get a lot of guys standing around watching him,” Wheat Ridge coach Tommy Dowd said of Kozic’s big scoring night. “That’s what happened.”
The rest of the Farmers combined for just 12 points. Another issue was Wheat Ridge’s free-throw shooting.
“You’ve got to make free throws. I think we were 9-for-18 from the free-throw line,” Dowd said. “That’s been our Achilles heal all year long.”
Despite the loss, Wheat Ridge is almost guaranteed to finish second behind D’Evelyn in one of the two divisions in 4A Jeffco and earn one of the four automatic playoff berth out of Jeffco. The top two teams in the divisions are locks for the 32-team 4A state tournament that begins Feb. 27.
“We are still going to the playoffs. That’s the bottom line,” Dowd said. “We’ve got D’Evelyn on Tuesday. Our kids will be excited to go down there.”
Wheat Ridge has back-to-back conference games next Tuesday and Wednesday. The Farmers get a second crack at D’Evelyn, ranked No. 8 in this week’s CHSAANow.com 4A basketball poll. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday on the Jaguars’ home court before Wheat Ridge hosts Arvada the following night.
Standley Lake has a pair of home games next week facing Arvada on Tuesday followed by No. 3 Golden on Thursday. Both are 7 p.m. starts.
“We definitely need to win the next two games, maybe the next four to make it in,” Hoffman said of his thoughts on the playoff picture. “Hopefully this game will lead up to that and gets us ready to go.”
Barring some upsets, the Gators will likely finished third in their division and finish with games against Evergreen and Conifer to close out the regular season.
“They (players) want to be apart of the 32 (state tournament). We talk about it every day,” Puccio said. “We’ve got a lot of season left.”