HIGHLANDS RANCH — If someone had told Valor Christian boys basketball coach Troy Pachner that Jeremy Randle wouldn't score after the first quarter and Golden's Adam Thistlewood would explode in the second half, he would guessed Valor would walk away with a loss.
Joke's on him.
The Eagles got just enough from its supporting cast and Thistlewood's last-second shot to tie the game went just long. Class 4A No. 9 Valor came away with a 56-53 win over No. 4 Golden to take an early edge in the 4A Jeffco League standings.
"It was huge," Pachner said. "Obviously Golden is the favorite and everybody knew that coming into this year. We felt like we could play with anybody in our league, so it's convincing ourselves that even though we're young in terms of varsity experience, we're just as talented as anybody."
That was apparent early in the game when Randle knocked down a couple of quick 3-pointers to give the Eagles (6-6 overall, 3-0 4A Jeffco) an early lead. The Eagles offense overall worked very efficiently in the first quarter, scoring at a 2-1 clip compared to the Demons (9-3, 2-1).
But then things started to change. Randle got into foul trouble and was forced to make his way to the bench. The 12 points he scored in the first would stand as his total for the game. With the leading scorer on the team unable to directly contribute, the Eagles had to find points elsewhere.
Hunter Shkapich scored six of the teams 10 points in the second quarter, including a layup as time expired, locking up momentum for Valor heading into the locker room.
"It was important to come off and get a good start," Randle said. "I got in foul trouble, but it doesn't mean that I can't cheer my guys on from the bench and be a good teammate. They picked me up."
The biggest advantage for the Eagles was Thistlewood's inability to score in the first half. He totaled just four points and one total field goal.
That all changed starting in the third. He scored 11 of his game-high 17 points in the third.
"We had a slow start in the first half and we were playing catch-up the whole time," Golden coach Erik Buehler said. "If he's his normal self in the first half or the first quarter, it's probably and completely different game."
The Demons were fighting hard in an effort to pull even with the Eagles. Jack Moore buried a 3-pointer in the fourth to make it 44-42, but Jack Foley answered right away with one of his own for the Eagles. Off a quick missed Golden shot Rocky Beers got out in transition and converted, forcing a Golden timeout.
As the seconds ticked away, Jack McGlaughlin was fouled on a shot and converted the and-one attempt to pull within three points.
Randle was fouled and went to the line looking for his first points since the first quarter, but missed the free throw. The Demons had one last chance with about eight seconds left.
The ball went right into Thistlewood's hands and he found an opening off a screen, but the shot attempt was no good.
"Adam was tremendous," Pachner said. "He's a great player. We had some concepts on him that we did not execute, including the last shot of the game."
Golden will get a chance for redemption when it hosts Valor on Feb. 2.