Grizzlies lose grip — and title hopes

Posted 3/18/09

The Grizzlies had it, but it was Regis who went on to the Class 5A state championship game. The ThunderRidge High School boys basketball team, the …

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Grizzlies lose grip — and title hopes


The Grizzlies had it, but it was Regis who went on to the Class 5A state championship game.

The ThunderRidge High School boys basketball team, the No. 3 seed in the Glenn Wilson Region, squared off against Regis, the No. 1 seed from the Ray C. Ball bracket, in the final four March 12 at Colorado University’s Coors Events Center.

Destiny appeared to be on the side of the Grizzlies in the final period, but it was Regis who finished on the better end of a 61-54 overtime final.

After a tied score at halftime, and an even battle through the third quarter, ThunderRidge started to pull away in the start of the fourth. The Raiders’ defense started to break down, and the Grizzlies used it to push to a 10-point lead.

Regis started to draw fouls, ThunderRidge missed a handful of opportunities to put the nail in the coffin.

Within the last three minutes, Grizzlies standout Dave Arnold sank a layup and dropped a third point after being fouled to keep ThunderRidge ahead.

Later, Regis’ Chris Lesnansky drilled a pass to R.J. Demps for a layup. Regaining possession, Demps hit a three-pointer to bring the Raiders within striking range 54-51.

“That was a really tough one to take,” Grizzlies coach Joe Ortiz said. “We played a great game up until that point. No question.”

With 33 seconds left, Regis had to start fouling, but ThunderRidge suddenly couldn’t get in the hoop from the foul line.

Regis’ Michael Clark stole the ball from Arnold in the last five seconds and set up Bud Thomas for a three-pointer to beat the buzzer and tied the game at 54.

Knowing Regis now had momentum, Ortiz just wanted T-Ridge to regroup and continue to play its game.

“The game’s not over,” he said to his players before the overtime period. “We just have to share the ball and just defend, the same-ol’ same-ol’. It was just trying to get it to regroup. It was a shock, and they’ve got momentum. You’re just trying to regroup.”

After the buzzer beater, however, there was no stopping Regis. The Raiders were hot, and ThunderRidge couldn’t get a single bucket in the overtime period. With help of some lucky calls, the Raiders eliminated the Grizzlies 61-54 in overtime.

Arnold, a senior guard, still had an amazing game with 23 points, including three drops from outside the paint, leading T-Ridge on the board. Junior forward Dave Day finished with 18 points, while senior guard Troy Noser had 10.

Regis’ Thomas also finished with 23 points.

With graduation, ThunderRidge loses Arnold, Noser, guard Brandon Jimenez and forward Mike Ernest. While the Grizzlies’ close playoff games may help their younger players down the road, coach Ortiz is only focused on this year’s team.

“I’m not concerned about next year’s team,” said Ortiz, who has coached in the state finals five times. “I’m never worried about next year. Next year never comes. It’s always this year. This year, we were supposed to be nobody. This year, we had three starters move away.

“These guys had an amazing season. I’m very proud of them. Next year, will be this year for next year’s team, so I’m not worried about next year.”

The semifinals game may have officially created a Continental League rivalry for the Grizzlies against Regis. Earlier in the season, Regis beat ThunderRidge by three points. ThunderRidge finished with an 18-9 record.


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