DENVER — D’Evelyn’s boys basketball team would like to get off the Class 4A playoff bubble.
The Jaguars (6-12, 3-4 in 4A Jeffco League) took a big step forward Friday night with a 42-37 conference victory over Evergreen (10-6, 3-4).
“That was the greatest we’ve played as a team this year,” said D’Evelyn junior Sam Belmonte, who led the Jaguars with a game-high 15 points. “I think this is our spark we needed to get us going through the second half of league.”
Heading into Friday’s game D’Evelyn was on a 3-game losing streak and No. 48 in the RPI standings. With 48-teams qualifying for the 4A state tournament the Jaguars are firmly on the bubble with three weeks left of the regular season.
D’Evelyn has five league games remaining to climb up the RPI standings to qualify for the postseason.
“The RPI makes things tough, but all we know is we can play with anybody in this league,” D’Evelyn coach Dan Zinn said. “We just have to show up and play good basketball. Right now we can’t look at where we are at in the RPI.”
It’s been a season of highs and lows for D’Evelyn so far. The Jaguars started the season 0-8, but bounced back winning 5 of 6 games. However, D’Evelyn entered Friday’s game on a three-game losing streak.
The Jaguars were looking for a bit of revenge against Evergreen. The Cougars defeated the Jaguars 52-45 on Jan. 3 to begin conference play.
“Evergreen got us the first time, so we knew we were going to come out and beat them on our home court,” Belmonte said. “We needed to show our school and fans who we really are.”
The key against Evergreen came defensively and at the free-throw line for D’Evelyn. The Jaguars held the Cougars without a field goal through the entire third quarter. In fact, Belmonte scored the lone field goal in the third quarter in the final second of the quarter.
The focus of the Jaguars defensively was to keep Evergreen from penetration inside that normally leads to kick out passes for open 3-pointers.
“It was a dogfight between two teams that weren’t going to let the other team score,” Zinn said. “It was just a solid defensive effort.”
The advantage at the free-throw line sealed the victory for D’Evelyn. The Jaguars finished 16-for-18 from the charity stripe, including going a perfect 10-for-10 in the second half.
“That was huge,” Zinn said of the Jaguars’ free-throw shooting. “We stepped to the line with confidence. It was multiple guys who put them in during the fourth quarter and we needed every one of them.”
Senior Dan Brady (six points), along with juniors Jack Grant (four points) and Blake Frantz (eight point) were a combined 12-for-12 from the line for the Jaguars.
Evergreen on the other hand struggled early missing its first six free throws. The Cougars finished 7-for-15 from the line in their second straight loss.
Sophomores Griffin Lauritano and Jackson Mott led the way combining for 20 points. Senior Brett Bokelman’s 3-pointer with just under a minute to play in the fourth quarter cut D’Evelyn’s lead to 36-34, but that was as close as the Cougars would get.
A heartbreaking 56-55 overtime loss at home to league-leading Wheat Ridge on Wednesday pretty much ended any hope the Cougars could challenge for the Class 4A Jeffco League title.
Evergreen has a quick turnaround hosting red-hot Ralston Valley (12-4, 2-0 in 5A Jeffco) at 5:30 p.m. Saturday on the Cougars’ home court. The Mustangs are on a 10-game winning streak.
D’Evelyn is back on its home court Wednesday, Jan. 30, to host rival Green Mountain in another conference showdown.