Horizon edges Ralston Valley in 3-OT boys basketball marathon

Horizon's Justin Nitura (33) has the ball slapped away by Ralston Valley's Kyle Zigich on Friday night. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

ARVADA — Horizon boys basketball got its money’s worth when it came to its entrance fee to play in the annual Ralston Valley RoundUp.

In the final game of the tournament, the Hawks defeated host Ralston Valley 58-52 in triple-overtime. Horizon senior Sawyer Cirbo poured in 8 of 12 points scored by the Hawks in the three 4-minute overtime periods, including going 6-for-8 from the free-throw line.

Legacy was crowned the tournament champion going 3-0 with victories over Ralston Valley, Westminster and Standley Lake during the 3-day tournament.

“Sawyer is all over the floor all the time, in practice too,” Horizon coach Chad Wilson said. “He dives on the floor. Running into walls. Diving into the bleachers. That is how he plays. He sets a tone.”

Ralston Valley's Isaac Townsend (31) looks for room to work against a pair of Horizon defenders. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

The Hawks (5-1 record) trailed 46-41 after a 3-pointer by Ralston Valley senior Isaac Asquith and a pair of free throws by sophomore Caden Gigstad. However, Horizon answered with junior Kaden Bennet making a pair of free throws and Cirbo drained a 3-pointer with 34 seconds left to ties things up at 46-46 and force overtime.

Horizon held the ball for the majority of the first scoreless overtime period. The Hawks took a 49-46 lead in the second overtime, but Gigstad canned a 3-pointer with 43 seconds left in the second overtime to force yet a third extra session.

“They are trying,” first-year Ralston Valley coach Chris Braketa said. “We just have to figure some things out offensively. Defensively it was a good effort.”

Horizon was able to pull away in the third overtime where it became a battle at the free-throw line. The Hawks went 7-for-12 from the charity stripe in the third overtime. The Mustangs were 3-for-4, which included a lane violation that cost Ralston Valley (1-4) a point.

“To be in this kind of situation and learn from our mistakes and what we did right,” Wilson said. “It’s a great learning tool early in the season.”

It was a good bounce-back win for the Hawks after a 56-54 loss to Standley Lake in the second round of the tournament Thursday. Horizon is back in action at home against Mountain Range at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 11.

Chris Braketa is in his first season at the helm of Ralston Valley's boys basketball program. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

After three straight losses to begin the season. Braketa got his first victory Thursday with a 44-39 victory over Mountain Range.

Braketa, 1999 Pomona High School graduate, is in his first year at the helm of the Mustangs. He took over for the only head coach Ralston Valley’s boys basketball team had ever known — Mitch Conrad.

“Being with a new coach we have to be able to believe in what he has and what he is giving to us,” said Gigstad, who finished with 13 points. “It’s five games. We’re going to be able to do it.”

Asquith had a game-high 17 points and junior Jordan Stratch pitched in 11 points for the Mustangs before he fouled out in the third overtime period.

Ralston Valley has plenty of size this season with 6-foot-7 junior Isaac Townsend, 6-foot-6 Stratch, 6-foot-5 junior AJ Jergensen and 6-foot-4 Asquith.

“That is where our strength is, our size,” Braketa said. “We’ve just got to keep looking inside with our guards and having our bigs work. That is definitely going to be our strength and something we have to use once we get into (5A Jeffco) league for sure.”

The Mustangs have more than a week break before their next game. Ralston Valley hosts ThunderRidge, No. 5 in the CHSAANow.com 5A boys basketball preseason poll, at 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16.

Horizon senior Sawyer Cirbo (15) scored the final 6 points for the Hawks in their 58-52 triple-overtime victory. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)