LAKEWOOD — Green Mountain boys basketball team didn’t want its season to end Tuesday night on its home court.
The No. 14-seeded Rams dominated No. 19 Frederick to the tune of 64-32 in the opening round of the Class 4A state tournament.
“I put a lot on them when it comes to this might be the last time we are together,” Green Mountain coach Mike Puccio said of his Rams that entered the state tournament on a 2-game losing streak. “It’s the nostalgia of why we coach high school basketball. It is a beautiful thing. You play for that guy next to you. We were good tonight.”
The six Green Mountain seniors for sure didn’t want to lose a third straight game and end their high school career with a loss on their home court.
“Those two losses were probably the two most sour losses I’ve ever experienced,” Green Mountain senior Allen Ortiz said of back-to-back losses to 4A Jeffco League rivals Golden and Evergreen last week to close out the regular season. “For me personally, there was no way we were coming out of here with a loss.”
Green Mountain (11-4 record) methodically built its lead to 20 points by midway through the third quarter. Extending it to 30 points when senior Austin Peterson heated up with a pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
Frederick (10-5) was held to a season-low 32 points, scoring single-digit points in the final three quarters. Junior Bryce Conniver led the Warriors with 11 points.
The Rams had tremendous scoring balance with seniors Blake McKibbin, Darius Padilla, Dylan Green, Ortiz, Peterson and junior Corbin Jantzer all scoring between 9 and 12 points on the night.
Big the biggest story was Green Mountain’s defense and rebounding.
“We knew if we could control the boards we would definitely come out on top,” Ortiz said. “Dylan Green is phenomenal on the boards. We just try to do our part.”
Green finished with 22 rebounds on the night to go with his eight points. He actually was double-digits in offensive (10) and defensive (12) rebounds as the Rams had 50 total rebounds on the night.
“That was the focus and that was the focus all year,” Puccio said of rebounding. “Sometimes we execute and sometimes we don’t.”
Padilla had an outstanding final game on the Rams’ home court with a game-high 12 points. It has been a long road for the multi-sport athlete.
Padilla had an emergency appendectomy after his appendix ruptured during the middle of the basketball season last year. Then had to deal with an infection after the surgery. He missed more than a month of action dealing the medical issues.
“I call him the Comeback Player of the Year,” Puccio said of his starting point guard. “The kid was 105 pounds last year after the second infection. He is the toughest kid we have had here in a long time. He is our engine.”
Padilla was Green Mountain’s starting quarterback this past football season and will transition over the baseball field this spring to conclude his high school career.
“Honestly, I didn’t think I would recover as well as I did,” Padilla said. “It was a rough, rough six weeks. To be able to play this year is a blessing. You have to be appreciative of everything. That is how I was raised and have been coached.”
Next up for Green Mountain is a trip to undefeated Montrose (15-0) to face the No. 3 Indians on Thursday night in the Sweet 16.
“We are looking forward to it,” Puccio said. “Those are great moments to remember forever and great bounding. I don’t mind going over the pass. We’ll have some fun with it.”
The Rams hope this year’s playoff experience on the Western Slope goes better than last season.
“Last year we went over the pass,” Padilla said of the Rams’ playoff loss to Glenwood Springs last year. “This year we are ready.”