LITTLETON — Chaparral senior Kobe Sanders couldn’t miss Tuesday night at Columbine High School.
The Wolverines’ lefty guard poured in not only a season-high, but a career-high 40 points to lift Chaparral to a 71-57 road victory against Columbine, ranked No. 5 in this week’s CHSAANow.com Class 5A boys basketball poll.
“I didn’t realize he had 40,” Chaparral coach Nate Rohnert said after the No. 10 Wolverines rallied from a 32-25 halftime deficit. “He is special. He is a senior and has seen everything being a four-year starter for us. Every night he is a special player and gives us an edge.”
Columbine (9-2 record) went on a 9-0 run to end the second quarter to grab the 7-point lead heading into the break. However, Sanders took over in the third quarter posting 18 points in the quarter, including four 3-pointers. Chaparral outscored Columbine 26-9 in the third quarter to take control.
The Rebels tried several different defensive schemes on Sanders. The senior made a pair of free throws with 45 seconds left to put an exclamation-point to hit the 40-point mark.
“He (Sanders) is a great player,” Columbine coach Clay Thielking said. “We didn’t have any answers against him. We couldn’t slow him down. You have to tip your cap. He played really well.”
Chaparral (8-5) had the priority of trying to shutdown Columbine star Luke O’Brien. The senior forward who is headed to the University of Colorado next season had 24 points, but it wasn’t enough for the Rebels.
“We just wanted to win,” Sanders said of out-dueling O’Brien. “We focused on defense. If we could shut Luke down it would give us a chance.”
Chaparral sophomore Jeremiah Coleman added 13 points and senior Maverick Patten scored all of his nine points in the second half for the Wolverines in the big victory.
“We’ve had a brutal, brutal schedule,” Rohnert said. “We did that on purpose to test our guys. We just keep telling our guys to keep getting better and better. I think we have got better. We are feeling good going into league.”
The Wolverines begin conference play in the 5A/4A Continental League on the road Friday against Douglas County.
“It’s huge,” Sanders said. “Now we go into league feeling good. We needed that win.”
Columbine faces cross-town rival Dakota Ridge in a non-league game coming up on Friday night before finally getting into 5A Jeffco League play.
“These things happen every year to every team,” Thielking said of the loss. “Maybe it’s the best thing for us. We took it on the chin tonight, but I think our guys will rally around each other and find away to turn it into a positive.”
The Rebels open up conference play on the road against Valor Christian on Friday, Jan. 24. Columbine is attempting to win a third straight league title.