GOLDEN — Golden senior Adam Thistlewood has stressed all season that he trusts his teammates.
“It’s not a one-man show at all here,” Thistlewood said after Golden’s 76-61 home victory against Valor Christian on Friday night. “We played really well as a team tonight.”
In the Class 4A Jeffco League showdown against two top-6 ranked teams in the CHSAANow.com boys basketball poll, No. 3 Golden couldn’t ride on the shoulders of the Demons’ 6-foot-7 smooth scoring machine against No. 6 Valor. Thistlewood, who scored 47 points last Friday night against D’Evelyn, picked up his fourth personal foul with 4:05 left in the third quarter.
Despite having a 48-38 lead, without Thistlewood (22.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game) on the court for five minutes of the second half opened the door for the Eagles to make their run, and they did.
Valor went on an 8-0 run shortly after Thistlewood took a seat on the bench, but the veteran Demons didn’t panic.
“I don’t think so,” Golden senior Jack Moore said when asked if he was nervous with Thistlewood was on the bench. “We still have guys like Jack (McLaughlin) and Joe (Madsen) who can still put it in the hoop. Adam is the best player in the state, but we’ve got other guys who can finish it.”
Moore actually stopped the bleeding with a 3-pointer with 2 minutes left in the third quarter to halt Valor’s run.
“That felt good,” Moore said of his 3-pointer with 2 minutes left in the third quarter that ended an 8-0 run by Valor. “That gave our team a lot of confidence. It really boosted us.”
Fellow seniors Joe Madsen and Riley Stoner had buckets before the end of the third quarter to keep Golden ahead 56-51 heading to the final quarter.
“The way we’ve been playing the last five or six games I’ve got complete faith in the other 10 guys on the team,” Golden coach Erik Buehler said as the Demons extended their winning streak to 7 games. “We are a senior-laded team so that carries us through a lot of moments. It’s the advantage we have right now.”
Thistlewood got back on the court with 7 minutes to play. He buried a 3-pointer and went 3-for-4 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter to finish with a game-high 28 points.
Golden outscored Valor 16-6 in the final 5 minutes to end a long losing streak against the Eagles.
“We finally got them,” Moore said of defeating Valor for the first time since Jan. 8, 2016.
Valor edged Golden 56-53 in the first meeting Jan. 10 on the Eagles’ home court. The Eagles had five straight victories over the Demons, including taking down Golden in two league meetings and in the 4A state semifinals last season.
“This was a big one. This was like a playoff game,” Thistlewood said. “They are good with a great coach (Troy Pachner). That was a league championship type game right there.”
Valor had a trio of players — juniors Hunter Shkapich, Jack Foley and senior Jeremy Randle — reach double-digit points, but giving up 76 points on defense was the most since before winter break for the defending 4A state champs.
“It’s a humbling experience for sure,” Shkapich said of the Eagles’ 10-game winning streak coming to an end. “It’s a tough loss. We just have to move forward as a team and get the next one hopefully.”
Valor (12-7, 9-1 in league) faces D’Evelyn and Wheat Ridge before its critical game at Evergreen on Feb. 13.
Golden (16-3, 9-1) has conference games against Standley Lake, Littleton and Green Mountain before another huge league match-up at Evergreen on Feb. 15.
While the Cougars (15-4, 8-2) suffered losses to Golden and Valor during the first round of 4A Jeffco conference games, Evergreen will have the home-court advantage against the Demons and Eagles to close the regular season.
“It will come right down to the wire and we still have a lot of work to do before we get there (Evergreen),” Buehler said of the tight race for the 4A Jeffco title.