LITTLETON — Ralston Valley’s boys basketball team got an assist from an unlikely source Wednesday night.
After taking care of its own business with a 64-48 road victory against Dakota Ridge in Class 5A Jeffco League action, the Mustangs went into the locker room and caught the tail end of rival Arvada West upsetting Columbine 70-68.
“When Columbine lost to Arvada West we were going crazy in the locker room,” Ralston Valley senior Caleb Rillos said. “We knew with A-West beating Columbine we would have a chance for league. We just have to win Friday. We have more motivation now.”
Ralston Valley closes out the regular season at home against rival A-West at 7 p.m. Friday. If the Mustangs — No. 4 in the CHSAANow.com Class 5A rankings — defeat the Wildcats it would leave Ralston Valley and Valor Christian tied atop 5A Jeffco to end league play.
The Mustangs (19-3, 6-1) would be awarded the conference title over the Eagles (16-6, 7-1) because Ralston Valley defeated Valor 60-58 to take the head-to-head tiebreaker.
“We’ll be so amped up with it being Senior Night,” Ralston Valley senior Luke Carlston said of Friday’s home game against A-West. “We just need to play a complete game.”
Ralston Valley took a 69-49 non-league victory over A-West back on Jan. 13, but Mustangs’ coach Chris Braketa is going to make sure his team doesn’t take the Wildcats (10-12, 5-2) lightly.
“A-West has some good players and Coach (Jeff) Parriott always comes with a really good game plan,” Braketa said. “It’s going to be a battle again.”
Dakota Ridge (9-13, 4-3) gave Ralston Valley a battle early on. The Eagles led 9-2 midway through the first quarter. Senior Quincy Alexander and junior Hunter Hickman combined for three 3-pointers in the opening minutes.
However, the Mustangs responded in the second quarter outscoring Dakota Ridge 21-12 in the quarter to grab a 29-25 lead at halftime. Rillos poured in 11 of his game-high 25 points in the second quarter.
“It was just kind of a weird first half offensively,” Braketa said. “We got going and it came from our defense which is important.”
Rillos gave a lot of credit to Carlston when it came to turning the momentum in the Mustangs’ favor. Carlston started the second half with a steal and layup on the other end to help Ralston Valley push its lead to double-digits.
“Luke has that ability to spark us,” Rillos said of Carlston, who finished with 13 points. “When he is going our whole team gets going.”
Senior Caden Gigstad got the hot hand in the third quarter for Ralston Valley. The senior guard hit a pair of 3-pointer, including one to end the third quarter to make it a 52-36 lead heading to the final quarter.
“We knew he (Gigstad) would bounce back,” Carlston said. “He is a great player. He just needs to keep shooting it.”
Hickman led Dakota Ridge with 16 points. Junior Gino Corridori returned from injury and had a nice game back with a dozen points. The Eagles wrap up conference play and tries to end its 3-game losing streak before the postseason with a league game on the road against Pomona at 7 p.m. Friday.
While a 2020 league title banner hanging at Ralston Valley High School’s gym would be nice, it’s not the ultimate goal for the Mustangs.
“(League) isn’t the end goal. It’s the process of trying to get better every day,” Braketa said. “Whatever comes in the end that is what comes. We are just working to get better.”