COLORADO SPRINGS — For three years, Cheyenne Mountain coach Elgin Fitzgerald was used to hearing the tongue lashings coming from the coach on the opposing bench. He had been the victim of them a time or two.
But Wednesday night, those tongue lashings were directed at players that Fitzgerald was hoping would be slowed down by his own roster. Fitzgerald and Sierra coach Terry Dunn go back a ways to their days at Dartmouth. Fitzgerald the player, Dunn the head coach.
After play calls, emotional runs and two overtimes Fitzgerald walked away with a win over his old mentor. No. 11 Cheyenne Mountain gutted out its toughest win of the year, beating No. 27 Sierra 64-63 in the Class 4A Sweet 16.
"Outside of Lewis-Palmer, we haven't played a team all year that gets in your face and makes it hard on you," Fitzgerald said. "We knew that going in and we turned the ball over. We had been in closer games, but we had a lead."
He also has Javonte Johnson who comes in handy whether the Indians (20-5 overall) are winning, tied or behind.
Imani Grigsby scored his only field goal of the fourth quarter to pull the Stallions (14-12) even with Cheyenne Mountain. The Sierra crowd howled with approval until Johnson caught the ball in the corner and calmly launched a 3-point shot that seemingly shifted momentum right back to the Indians.
"A little bit," Johnson said. "One play doesn't make a game."
Especially one that needs an extra eight minutes to be decided. Johnson scored a game-high 27 points, including a stretch of seven consecutive points off free throws in the second quarter.
It became a back and forth battle between he and Sierra guard Eddie Whitmore. The senior for the Stallions also scored 27 points and was the only Sierra player to have a productive day from the free throw line. The Stallions were 9-for-19 overall from the charity stripe, a brutal stat when leaving with a one-point loss.
"It's just a matter of whether you want to go home or you don't," Dunn said. "We had opportunities."
And they battled. Down three late, Whitmore hit a free throw to cut the lead to two. A missed free throw from Brad Helton gave the Stallions life and Ramsey Whitaker found Isaiah Wilburn cutting to the basket in the closing seconds of regulation to tie the game and send it to overtime.
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Cheyenne Mountain countered with a late basket of their own in that overtime period. A Nicholas Bassett missed shot was tipped in by Jaedn Harrison which sent the crowd once again into a frenzy.
"It's awesome," Bassett said. "Often times we pack the games and after last Saturday against Widefield, we had this atmosphere recently. It makes it a lot more fun."
The only two points Cheyenne Mountain scored in the second overtime were on a pair of free throws from Johnson. Whitmore had two opportunities of his own but missed the front end. A flurry of shots at the end could fall for the Stallions and it was Cheyenne Mountain advancing to the Great 8 where it will host No. 14 Pueblo East.
Cheyenne Mountain beat Pueblo East by 15 points back on Dec. 14.