GOLDEN — Golden’s boys basketball team couldn’t have closed out its Class 4A Jeffco League play in more of a thrilling fashion then it did Friday night.
“To win it in this fashion was unbelievable,” Golden senior Jack Anderson said after the Demons finished 4A Jeffco play with a 11-1 conference record to reclaim the 4A Jeffco League title. “Wheat Ridge is a great team, they always are. What an unbelievable game to end the regular season with.”
The Demons — No. 6 in the final CHSAANow.com 4A boys basketball rankings of the season — defeated rival Wheat Ridge 58-55 on Senior Night where Golden honored its eight seniors.
It wasn’t easy. Golden trailed last year’s conference champions Wheat Ridge 50-44 early in the fourth quarter. Golden junior Nathan Wiggins hit a big 3-pointer for the Demons to take the lead 54-53 with 2:20 left to play.
“I guess I was just feeling it,” Wiggins said of his trio of 3-pointers and scored a team-high 13 points to helped lift the Demons. “I really have to give credit to my teammates. I felt like we played such a great team.”
Wheat Ridge senior Dominic Bronk’s basket with just more than 2 minutes to go regained the lead for the Farmers (13-10, 8-4), but Anderson’s field goal seconds later put Golden up for good.
Senior Ben McLaughlin and freshman Alan Acevedo both made a free throw in the final minute, but Acevedo’s miss from the charity stripe gave Wheat Ridge the chance to send the game into overtime.
Bronk grabbed the rebound off Acevedo’s miss, dribbled almost down to the 3-point line before launching what would have been the game-tying shot. It hit the rim twice before bouncing away to give the Demons (17-6, 11-1) the win.
“Dom is a gamer and hits big-time shots all the time,” Anderson said of Bronk. “I was scared he was going to it that. It looked good. Thank God it bounced out.”
Bronk, who is average a double-double this season, finished with 13 points. Junior Wes Miller had another great night from long-range. Miller nailed five 3-pointers to finish with a game-high 21 points.
“We just have to execute down at the end,” Wheat Ridge coach Tommy Dowd said of the Farmers going scoreless in the final two minutes. “We had chances and didn’t do what we needed to do. My kids played really hard. I thought the effort was outstanding.”
Dowd was shorthanded for a lot of the night. The Farmers’ leading scorer Alex Morales picked up his third foul in the first quarter. After sitting the entire second quarter he was tagged with his fourth foul less than three minutes into the third quarter.
“It’s a good game to test your medal and see what it’s going to be like in the playoffs,” Dowd said. “It was a playoff atmosphere tonight. I told our guys that a lot of guys will never play in a game with this kind of atmosphere.”
Golden took a 68-61 victory on the Farmers’ home court earlier this season.
“We knew it was going to be a battle. It’s a rivalry,” Golden coach Lou Vullo said about the nearly packed gym. “Last time I think we hit 12 3-pointers. Tonight we had to grind it out with some defense and being patient on offense.”
The waiting game now begins. CHSAA is scheduled to reveal the state tournament brackets Sunday, Feb. 23, on CHSAANow.com.
Golden was No. 4 in the RPI rankings before Friday’s games. The Demons went into the 48-team state tournament last year as the No. 26 seed. Golden upset No. 7 Glenwood Springs in the second round to advance to the Sweet 16 where the Demons lost a close one at Harrison.
“Some of those teams in the 20s (RPI) are scary,” Vullo said looking ahead to the playoffs next week. “We have to come to play. If we don’t come to play we’ll be in trouble.”
Wheat Ridge was the team with the bye and No. 8 seed last year. The Farmers suffered a quick second-round exit after a defeat at home against Thomas Jefferson.
“We are happy to play on Wednesday (first round),” Dowd said. “Maybe we’ll get the draw that Golden got last year.”