AURORA — Ethan Ranzenberger is a nice enough kid. He's quiet, polite and he doesn't raise his voice.
At least that's what he does in a one-on-one setting. On the basketball court? That's a much different story. The kid is an assassin and reliable weapon in coach Jarris Krapcha's arsenal.
It was his 3-pointer that quashed a comeback from Class 5A No. 8 Arapahoe and helped No. 2 Eaglecrest secure a big 71-59 win to remain undefeated in Centennial League play.
"That's why Ethan's in the game," Krapcha said. "He can shoot it. It's actually the second big three that's he hit. He hit another big one in an earlier game that stopped the bleeding and put us over."
The game started as anyone would expect. Both teams played at fast pace and tried to grab any momentum they could get in the early minutes. The first quarter ended tied, but the Raptors (11-1 overall, 3-0 Centennial League) grabbed a 33-22 lead at halftime.
The start of the third quarter was when they really grabbed momentum. After the Warriors (9-3, 1-2) scored the first basket of the second half, Eaglecrest countered with a 9-2 run forcing Arapahoe coach Troy Pachner to call timeout.
The Raptors built the lead to almost 20 giving the home fans a sense that the game was well in hand. But Pachner's squad had other ideas.
They went into what Pachner calls his Blue Press and it resulted in Eaglecrest turnovers and Arapahoe points. With about five minutes left in the game, the Eaglecrest lead was down to just four points.
"These are two very good teams; living up to the rankings if you ask me," Pachner said. "We got it to four and had all that enthusiasm and our kids really lived up to our moniker right there."
At the other end of the floor, Krapcha was debating on how he was going to try and steal the momentum back from Arapahoe.
He watched as Arapahoe's Bryson Stephens hit shot after shot, scoring 11 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter.
"Do you call timeout and try to manufacture a point there," Krapcha said. "You know if you do that, they're switching things around."
So he let his boys ride it out. They forced turnovers on back-to-back possessions and it was on one of those that Ranzenberger found himself open on the wing and buried a big-time 3-pointer to stop the Eaglecrest bleeding.
"That was a huge boost to our crowd," he said. "The student section really got going after that."
Arapahoe was never any closer than five from there on out. It was Ranzenberger's only three points of the game.
Ty Robinson led the Raptors with 21 and Zion Ruckard had 19.
The biggest takeaway for the team after the win was that they had surrendered a big lead and surrendered momentum and battled back to get a crucial league win.
That kind of toughness is needed in every team playing through the gauntlet of the Centennial League.
"This was a real test for us to get ready for all these tough league games," Ruckard said. "We have this thing where champions become champions before they're champions and that means playing defense, getting every loose ball and finishing each game out."
It's a process. And that process can play out when two players are averaging 20 points apiece and a silent assassin connects on his shot when it's most needed.