LITTLETON — Columbine junior Luke O’Brien carried the Rebels offensively, but it was the defensive help by Justin Lohrenz that sealed the boys basketball victory Saturday night.
Valor Christian had the ball with 14.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter with Columbine leading 51-50. Valor junior Cole Bott beat O’Brien off the drill on a drive in the lane, but Lohrenz came off his man to provide some help-side defense. Bott lost control of the ball with the Rebels’ defensive end on the football field sliding over and O’Brien providing pressure from behind.
“He (Bott) had made tough shots all game. I’m just glad he didn’t make that last one,” Lohrenz said after the Rebels held on to a 1-point victory in the Class 5A Jeffco League home opener for Columbine (10-5, 1-0 in 5A Jeffco). “I just had to make sure my hands were straight up and in was in good position. I didn’t want to foul him.”
O’Brien was fouled with 1.6 second left. The University of Colorado-commit scored 24 points, but missed the front-end of the 1-and-1 from the free-throw line. Valor sophomore AJ Kula had one final heave from half court, but the shot went over the backboard as the buzzer sounded.
“We knew it was going to be a tough night,” Columbine coach Clay Thielking said. “Valor is a really good team with a deceptive record and a really good coach. We had our hands full. They threw the first punch and we didn’t respond until the second quarter. It was wild, but we found a way.”
Valor (4-11, 0-1) grabbed an early double-digit lead in the first quarter and led 18-8 after eight minutes. However, the Eagles went cold in the second quarter scoring just five points as the Rebels took a 25-23 lead at halftime.
“It was kind of a bizarre game for us offensively. As a group we’ve struggled to find offense consistently,” Valor coach Troy Pachner said. “We are dangerous. Our record isn’t who we are, but it is what it is.”
Bott finished with 17 points and Kula added 10 points for Valor in what was the Eagles’ fifth loss in their last six games.
“That’s a really good team,” O’Brien said of Valor. “It’s a team that is going to be really good in (5A) Jeffco. We underestimated them a lot.”
O’Brien got the Rebels going scoring 22 points in the second and third quarters. He was the lone player to finish in double-digit points for Columbine.
“I just had to attack,” O’Brien said of him taking over in the second and third quarters. “(Valor’s) defense is good, but I felt I could dribble drive and get in there.”
The Rebels have won four straight, but welcome a bit of a break. Columbine returns to the court 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25. The Rebels host Pomona in another 5A Jeffco League game.
“It’s nice to have a little bit of a break to gather the team back in,” Lohrenz said. “We’ll go through our stuff and fix some things.”
Valor has a big home conference game against Ralston Valley (11-4, 1-0) at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23. The Mustangs are on a nine-game winning streak after defeating Chatfield on Saturday afternoon in their league opener.
The Eagles have played a tough non-league schedule and Pachner is encouraged Valor can make some noise in its first year in the 5A Jeffco League.
“Columbine is a good team. The top team in our league I think,” Pachner said. “We came into their place and had a shot to win it. That’s all you can ask for.”