GOLDEN — With snow piling up seemingly every other day lately, Golden senior Ben McLaughlin doesn’t mind getting work in on the hardwood before taking to the baseball field this spring.
“Baseball is my priority obviously,” said McLaughlin, one of the top baseball players in the state. “We are running with it right now. I’m just trying to enjoy the season. This is my last time playing basketball so I have to enjoy it.”
Golden — No. 7 in the Class 4A CHSAANow.com boys basketball rankings this week — is zeroing in on a 4A Jeffco League title. The Demons (15-6, 9-1) won their sixth straight conference game Wednesday night with a 54-44 victory over Green Mountain (14-6, 6-4). The Rams handed Golden its lone league loss back on Jan. 18.
The difference in the game was at the free-throw line. Golden went 19-for-30 from the charity stripe. Green Mountain was 5-for-11 from the line.
“(Green Mountain) is a great ball club and we knew it was going to be a tough physical game,” McLaughlin said. “We work on free throws all the time in practice. We needed to step up and knock them down.”
McLaughlin (14 points) and fellow senior Kevin Mulligan (17 points) led the Demons offensively. They combined to make 15 free throws.
Green Mountain’s senior big men — Jason Luzaydio and Matt Schlieper — had success with block shots early, but the Demons kept driving it inside with success.
“We talked about attacking the basket. We can’t settle for jump shots,” Golden coach Lou Vullo said. “We know that (Luzaydio and Schlieper) will leave their feet. I figured we could get them in foul trouble.”
The Demons grabbed their first double-digit lead at 26-16 with a 3-pointer by junior Jake Liedtke midway through the second quarter. Liedtke scored all seven of his points in the second quarter to help give the Demons a 30-21 lead at halftime.
“I’m proud of the team. We were disciplined tonight. I think that is why we shot a lot of free throws,” Vullo said. “We slowed things down. We got a double-digit lead and we didn’t want to lose it. We didn’t want Green Mountain to get back in the game because they have some kids who can score the ball.”
Golden’s defense was stellar is not letting Green Mountain get into its transition game. Senior Blake Schell scored a game-high 20 points for the Rams in the loss that ended any chance for Green Mountain to grab the league title.
“That’s credit to them (Golden),” Green Mountain coach Mike Puccio said of the Rams’ struggles on offense. “We are executing. We are turning it over on a high clip and that’s on the coaches. We’ve got to get us easier buckets. We need to run.”
Green Mountain has its regular-season home final on Friday night against Littleton. The Rams prepare for the playoffs with back-to-back road games against Evergreen on Feb. 21 and Pueblo South on Feb. 22.
Golden actually has a week break between games. The Demons are at D’Evelyn on Wednesday, Feb. 19, before closing out their regular season against rival Wheat Ridge on Feb. 21.
“It’s always good to have that,” Vullo said of the six days between games. “It is going to recharge our batteries for sure. Having that week off is going to be good.”
The showdown against the Farmers (11-7, 7-2) — defending 4A Jeffco League champs — could determine the outcome of the conference title race. It’s also something McLaughlin is looking forward to. Golden defeated Wheat Ridge 68-61 in the first meeting Jan. 22 on the Farmers’ home court.
“Golden versus Wheat Ridge, I want it all out on the line,” McLaughlin said of the Demons’ league and regular-season finale next week. “I want to beat them in our place and win that league title.”