AURORA — Three quarters of Thrusday's game between Highlands Ranch and Regis Jesuit belonged to the Highlands Ranch shooters.
The fourth quarter belonged to the Regis Jesuit defense. In the case of the top-10 showdown, defense and winning the fourth quarter meant winning the game.
The Class 5A No. 8 Raiders started the final quarter on a 9-0 run and it carried them to a 61-58 win and evened out their conference record.
"They gave us all we wanted," Regis coach Ken Shaw said. "They played extremely well and we didn't have much of a sense of urgency early."
Just like any other night, the Raiders (13-4 overall, 2-2 Continental League) relied on distributed scoring to come away with a win. But it was a little more unconventional than usual.
Sam Bannec struggled to get open looks and scored just seven points, about half of his regular output.
Through the first half, it didn't look like Jamil Safieddine was going to fare much better. He was held scoreless through the first 16 minutes of regulation, but came out on fire in the second half to lead Regis with 14 points.
"I knew my shots would eventually go in because I believe in percentages," Safieddine said. "I stuck with it and it finally went in for me."
The Falcons (13-4, 3-2) really didn't have a problem hoping the percentages would come through. In the first half alone, they knocked down seven 3-pointers, three of which came from Tristan Hurdle.
Like Safieddine for the Raiders, Brendan Sullivan exploded in the second half, scoring all of his game-high 20 after halftime.
He scored nine in the third as Highlands Ranch took a 47-41 lead into the final quarter.
But then things got chilly for the Falcons. Neither team was able to score in the first three and half minutes of the fourth quarter, but the Raiders finally came around. It took Highlands Ranch more than six minutes to make a shot.
And when playing a team like Regis Jesuit, it's never good to go cold in the fourth quarter.
"It is," Highlands Ranch coach Mike Gibbs said. "In the fourth quarter guys get a little tight. We had good looks, we just couldn't make baskets."
By the time the Falcons starting hitting, Regis was just far enough out of reach to complicate things and force the fouls needed to get to the free throw line.
The Raiders went 7-for-8 from the charity stripe. After dropping their first two league games, this was a much-needed win for Shaw's team. And with the postseason not far off, he knows they need to keep up the intensity and use each one to continue to get better as the season begins to wind down.
"Every win is important," Shaw said. "But so is what you take with you. You'd obviously like to win a little more comfortably than that, but what it brought to us and what we can use for improvement is that we can play well in a tight game in a tight environment."
Overall, it's been a good week for Shaw as he was inducted into the CHSAA hall of fame on Wednesday and followed it up with the win over Highlands Ranch.
He'll try to keep the momentum rolling against Castle View on Tuesday.