GOLDEN — Early on it looked like Golden senior Ilja Bubukin might be the only player with a scoring touch Thursday night.
In the opening round of the D’Evelyn/Golden Boys Basketball Preview Classic, Bubukin poured in eight points in the opening 90 seconds while it was a struggle for the rest of the Demons, along with any Pueblo East players to find the bottom of the net.
“When Ilja gets going he can fill it up quick, real quick,” Golden’s first-year coach Lou Vullo said after the No. 10 ranked Demons in the CHSAANow.com Class 4A boys basketball preseason poll defeated No. 8 Pueblo East by a score of 72-49.
Bubukin finished with a team-high 15 points, but his teammates eventually joined the scoring party. Nine different Demons (1-0 record) scored in the first half as Golden extended its lead to 42-23 at halftime.
“I could tell we were all really nervous, but I felt we all worked off of each other’s energy,” Bubukin said. “Everyone contributed a lot tonight.”
Pueblo East (0-1) was held to just five field goals in the first half. The Eagles were without a handful of football players who are preparing to play in the Class 3A state football game Saturday against Palmer Ridge.
Junior Darnell Kindred led the Eagles with a game-high 23 points. Senior Conor Mattorano pitched in 14 points for Pueblo East in the loss. The Eagles were held to 14 points or less in each quarter.
“Our whole philosophy is to have our defense dictate our offense,” Vullo said.
Offensively, Golden’s bench scored an impressive 31 points. Junior Jack Anderson led the Demons’ reserves with 12 points. Senior Connor Howe added nine points and sophomore Nathan Wiggins hit a pair of 3-pointer off the bench for Golden.
“After we saw Ilja starting hitting it we started feeling ourselves,” Anderson said.
Golden faces No. 4 Holy Family in the tournament semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday night at Golden High School. The Tigers defeated Sierra 69-50 in the first game Thursday night.
“Pueblo East is a great team. We know they were missing some guys,” Anderson said. “Holy Family is always one of the top teams in the state with a great coach (Pete Villecco). I think we have a chance if we play hard and physical against them.”
The D’Evelyn/Golden Preview Classic has become one of the premier early season tournaments. This year there are four Class 4A teams — Lewis-Palmer, Holy Family, Pueblo East and Golden — ranked in the top-10 of the CHSAANow.com preseason rankings.
“I’m a true believer of scheduling the best teams. It just helps you down the road for sure and helps you get better,” Vullo said. “Holy Family is a great team. We are going to have our hands full.”
Prior to coming to Golden, Vullo spent nine seasons heading the boys basketball program at The Pinnacle. It was a great atmosphere with Golden’s former coach John Anderson sitting with his new Pinnacle team in attendance to support its former coach.
“It a great culture and tradition they have here at Golden is unreal,” Vullo said. “When I got the job here I was so excited. It was great to see my old guys here. I appreciated John (Anderson) bring them here too.”
John Anderson — Golden’s head boys basketball coach for 18 years — took over for Vullo heading up The Pinnacle program. Both Anderson and Vullo are good friends that has made the transition smoother for both programs, including with Anderson’s son Jack.
“It was emotional,” Jack Anderson said. “It was tough not having my Dad there (on the bench), but Lou is a great coach. I love him. (Vullo) has kept the tradition here and that is all you can ask for.”