GOLDEN — Golden senior Joe Madsen took a calculated risk late in the fourth quarter Thursday night.
With less than a minute to play in the Class 4A boys basketball showdown between Golden and Holy Family — ranked No. 1 and No. 5 in the CHSAANow.com preseason poll — the Demons were hanging on to a 3-point lead. No. 5 Holy Family was clearly looking for a 3-pointer to tie the game, but Madsen had other plans.
“I saw him coming off a double-screen and once I get there I got the steal,” Madsen said of his steal and layup with 30 seconds to play that all but sealed the home victory. “All I had to do was finish the layup. Luckily I came away with it. If I didn’t it could have been bad.”
Top-ranked Golden pulled off a 51-44 victory in the season opener for both teams in what was the first night of the D’Evelyn/Golden Preview Classic at Golden High School.
“First game of the season, everyone’s emotions are through the roof,” said Golden senior Adam Thistlewood, who finished with a game-high 23 points. “Getting the first win is just a stepping stone to a great season.”
It wasn’t a great start for the Drake University-commit. Thistlewood couldn’t buy an outside shot throughout the game. Holy Family went on a 12-0 run in the first half, opening up a 27-21 halftime lead.
“Going into halftime we were more positive than anything. We weren’t down,” Madsen said. “We were just waiting for our moment to strike.”
Thistlewood got things going in the second half after the Demons had just four points in the second quarter. He poured in 10 points in the third quarter to cut the Tigers’ lead to 36-33 heading to the final quarter.
“The whole game was rough for me from the outside. At halftime I told myself if I wasn’t going to make a 3-pointer I’ll just shoot from 2-feet away,” Thistlewood said. “I told the coaches and my teammates to give me the ball inside and I’ll go to work.”
Holy Family’s junior trio of Adam Jolly, Kyle Helbig and Tanner Baird combined for 28 points on the night. Baird hit a jumper with 2:44 left in the fourth quarter to give the Tigers a 44-42 lead, but Golden finished the game on a 9-0 run.
The Demons continued with their strategy of getting the ball inside. Even when shots didn’t fall, Golden was able to get rebounds and eventually got fouled. After not making a trip to the free-throw line in the first half, the Demons finished 10-for-11 from the charity stripe in the second half.
“The key to the game is we started rebounding,” Golden coach John Anderson said. “This team has got to be a great rebounding team. We weren’t shooting well at all. We were just playing well enough in the first half to stick around.”
Senior Jack Moore finished with a dozen points, while Madsen had 10 points. Sophomore Jack Anderson played a pivotal role too, forcing a turnover in the fourth quarter and finishing with 5 points.
“I know my teammates are going to cover my back and I’m going to cover their back,” Thistlewood said.
Holy Family’s season started where it ended in a way Thursday. The Tigers were the No. 5 seed in the 4A state tournament, but were upset on their home court in the Sweet 16 by the No. 12-seeded Demons.
Golden gets another big test facing 4A preseason No. 2 Pueblo South (1-0 record) at 7 p.m. tomorrow (Friday) before closing out the three-day tournament at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at home against last year’s 4A state runner-up Lewis-Palmer.
“You want to be tested early,” Coach Anderson said. “Good-coached teams are always ready to play. We know there is a lot of things we need to tighten up and it doesn’t get any easier.”
Holy Family heads over the D’Evelyn to face the Jaguars at 7 p.m. tomorrow. The Tigers finish out the tournament against Pueblo Central at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at D’Evelyn.