No. 9 Wheat Ridge boys basketball ends long losing streak to Golden

GOLDEN — Wheat Ridge finally got a chance to celebrate at the conclusion of a boys basketball game against rival Golden.

The Farmers, No. 9 in the latest CHSAANow.com Class 4A rankings, ended more than a decade-long losing streak to the Demons on Wednesday night. Wheat Ridge defeated Golden 59-48 on the Demons’ home court.

“I’m just glad for my kids,” Wheat Ridge coach Tommy Dowd said after the long awaited victory over Golden. “I’m really happy for them. It’s been awhile. It’s just nice to get it over with.”

Golden junior Kevin Mulligan, far right, scored a team-high 14 points for the Demons, but finds himself trapped here by Wheat Ridge junior Alex Morales (10) and senior Julian Claussen (24). (Dennis Pleuss/Jefco Athletics)

Wheat Ridge (11-3, 4-0 in 4A Jeffco) hadn’t defeated rival Golden since the Farmers moved from 5A Jeffco into 4A Jeffco a decade ago. According to MaxPreps.com, the Demons were 17-0 against the Farmers since the 2008-09 season.

“We hadn’t beaten them in a while,” Wheat Ridge senior Blair McVicker said. “We knew we have a really good group of guys and we can all play together. We just wanted to go out and get the job done today.”

The Farmers never trailed and used a 13-0 run in the third quarter to push their lead to double-digit points against the Demons (6-8, 3-1). The victory also gave Wheat Ridge sole possession of first place in the conference.

Wheat Ridge had four players — McVicker (16 points), Julian Claussen (12 points), Dominic Bronk (11 points) and Alex Morales (10 points) — all finish in double figures.

“It’s hard to stop us because a lot of guys can score,” Dowd said. “If we would have shot it well tonight we would have run (Golden) out of here. We got good looks, but didn’t hit shots.”

McVicker led the charge in the second half for the Farmers. The transfer from Faith Christian Academy had a quiet first half with just three points, but was aggressive offensively after halftime.

“We needed to get to our pace,” the Farmers’ point guard said of the third quarter where the Farmers outscored the Demons 18-7. “We run and fast-break, we wanted to turn our defense into offense.”

Golden junior Carter Thompson, right, does his best on trying to guard Wheat Ridge's 6-foot-10 senior Zeke Van Tuyl in the post Wednesday night. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

Defensively, Wheat Ridge held Golden to 17-for-64 shooting on the night. Wheat Ridge’s 6-foot-10 senior Zeke Van Tuyl manned the middle of the paint for the most of the night, forcing the Demons to shoot from the outside.

“We couldn’t put the ball in the hole tonight at all,” Golden coach Lou Vullo admitted as his team shot just 27 percent from the field. “We were struggling with that. We were keeping the game close, but we’ve got to make shots against a zone (defense).”

Golden junior Kevin Mulligan had a team-high 14 points for the Demons. Senior David O'Connell pitched in 10 points in the loss.

The victory was extra special for Claussen, who transferred to Wheat Ridge from Golden after his sophomore year. He was also playing with a heavy heart.

“His grandfather passed away last night, so there was a heavy burden on him,” Dowd said of Claussen. “Our kids wanted to win for him. I’m happy for Julian. He is such a good kid.”

Claussen was congratulated by several Wheat Ridge fans, along with some former classmates and teachers after the Farmers’ win.

Wheat Ridge senior Julian Claussen (24) had a successful return Wednesday night to Golden High School. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“It means a lot. It’s cool to see my old friends out there and in this environment,” Claussen said. “It’s just a cool win. It feels like getting revenge on your buddies.”

Wheat Ridge is back on home for a 1 p.m. game Saturday, Jan. 19, against D’Evelyn. After the home game Saturday, the Farmers play six straight games on the road.

“I’m excited about every league game coming up. I think we can win out this year, truly,” Claussen said.

Golden has a non-league road game against DSST: Byers at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18, before getting back into conference play at D’Evelyn on Wednesday, Jan. 23.

“We still have a long season to go and I honestly feel the league is still up for grabs,” Vullo said.

The Demons will get their shot at revenge when they travel to Wheat Ridge for a regular-season finale for both teams Feb. 14 for the conference rematch.

“When I first got the position the boys were telling me about this rivalry,” said Vullo, who is in his first season coaching at Golden. “I know it really hurts them right now, but as I told them I’m on their side now and part of this rivalry.”

Golden senior David O'Connell (2) drives on Wheat Ridge junior Dominic Bronk (00) during the Class 4A Jeffco League showdown Wednesday at Golden High School. The Farmers ended a decade-long losing streak to the rival Demons with a 59-48 victory. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)