LAKEWOOD — There is still plenty of work to be done, but a Class 4A/3A Colorado 8 League title for Alameda’s boys basketball team is starting to come into focus.
“The pressure is definitely on right now,” Alameda junior Luis Miera said after the Pirates’s 57-49 victory over Englewood on Tuesday edged Alameda International closer to ending nearly a two-decade long drought. “We’ve got to get three more wins.”
According to Jeffco Public Schools’ league championship archive, Alameda hasn’t won a conference championship in boys basketball since the Pirates claimed the Jeffco 6 League title in the 2000-01 season. The court in the Duane Lewis Gymnasium is actually named after the last coach — Scott Smith — who guided Alameda to the league title 18 years ago.
“It’s in our heads,” Alameda coach Geremey Gibson said of the chances becoming greater to capture that elusive league crown. “I tell my players one game at a time. If we take care of one game at a time we’ll be where we need to be in the end. We don’t want to look too far ahead.”
Englewood (6-8, 2-3 in league) didn’t make the conference game easy in the all-Pirate battle. Senior Thomas O’Connor was unconscious from 3-point range through three quarters. O’Conner had five 3-pointers and a trio of free throws after getting fouled on a 3-point shot to score 18 points through three quarters.
“He (O’Connor) was hitting a lot of 3s. We left him open a couple of times,” said Miera, who got the one-on-one task against O’Connor in the fourth quarter. “We decided to go man (defense) and I guarded him up.”
O’Connor didn’t score in the fourth quarter with Miera shadowing him. However, Englewood sophomore Nate Gravagno had an incredible fourth quarter scoring all 18 points for Englewood to finish for a team-high 23 points on the night.
“We just broke down mentally on defense,” Gibson admitted. “We’ve been trying to switch things up because we know teams are going to come at us with our zone. We broke down mentally and we can’t have that.”
Alameda (14-3, 4-0) turned to Miera to close out the game in the final quarter on the offense end too. The senior scored 14 points in the final six minutes of the game to finish with a game-high 26 points.
“It was definitely sluggish,” Alameda’s point guard said of the first half. “I was trying to get my teammates involved, but we couldn’t finish around the rim tonight. I figured I should take over the game. A couple of easy buckets, get to the free-throw line and do what I need to do to get this win.”
Seniors Orlondo Aguilar (12 points), Derik Gutierrez (11 points) and Isiah Lawson (eight points) finished out the scoring load for Alameda in its fifth win over the past six games. The only setback over the last two weeks was a non-league loss to Aurora Central.
Alameda’s toughest final hurdle toward a conference title might come Friday night. The Pirates take on Conifer (10-7, 3-1) up in the foothills. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
“I’m looking forward to the game to be honest. It’s going to be a tough one,” Gibson said of facing Conifer. “This win prepares us and we’ll be ready for them.”
Gibson added that slowing down the Lobos’ junior point guard Landon Wallace is going to be key. Wallace is nearing averaging a double-double in points and assists.
“It’s going to be a tough one, but I think we can do it,” Miera said of the upcoming at Conifer game.
Alameda finishes off its league schedule against Weld Central and Riverdale Ridge before heading into the Colorado 8 League tournament.
“The attitude has changed,” Gibson said. “I think the guys are finally locked in because they know what we are working for.”