Most Viewed Stories
- Wheat Ridge holds off Lewis-Palmer in girls’ playoff as teacher ousts student
- Prep notebook: Memorial Day all-star baseball games for top prep players
- Three-way playoff gives 4A girls’ golf regional dramatic ending
- Breakthrough at Broken Tee: Indians reach top of 4A girls’ golf world
- Gille ready to lead Falcon football program if teaching position opens
Suspension brings Castle back to Pine Creek bench, but Eagles fall to Lincoln
When Dick Castle returned to Pine Creek before this season to teach and coach the boys’ junior varsity basketball team, patrolling the sidelines in a playoff game never crossed his mind.
But when varsity coach Duke Stewart received two technical fouls in Pine Creek’s final regular-season game Feb. 22 at Rampart, the automatic one-game suspension meant Castle, the Eagles’ varsity coach from 1999-2009, returned to a familiar place.
He couldn’t, however, help the Eagles advance to the next round, as he did last in 2007.
Gabriel Vazquez led all scorers with 23 points, Michael Sparks scored 16 of his 18 in the second half and hit seven free throws in the final 41 seconds, as No. 9 Lincoln held off No. 8 Pine Creek 60-56 in a 5A first-round playoff game.
“For me, it wasn’t a big deal since I had been a head coach for 13, 14 years,” said Castle, who also coached Vista Ridge for two seasons after first leaving Pine Creek. “It wasn’t a big adjustment for the kids since I’ve coached them all year. Duke has done a great job and has great passion for the game and his kids. It really hurt him not to coach in this game.”
Vazquez, a 6-foot-9 senior, hit 10 of 17 shots from the floor. His three-point play with 1:24 left broke a 50-50 tie and gave the Lancers (15-9) the lead for good.
Lincoln enjoyed a significant advantage at the free-throw line, making 18 of 22 shots compared to just 4-of-6 for Pine Creek (11-13).
After a Rhett Lopez 3-pointer gave Pine Creek a 50-48 lead with 3:58 to go, the Eagles went 3:20 without a point. In that time, Lincoln scored seven consecutive points after two turnovers and a missed 3-pointer.
“The playoffs bring another level to all the teams, and it’s just a tough loss,” said senior Chris Robinson, who scored 15 points, including two 3-pointers in the final minute to keep his team alive. “We've done so much in the last four years. I’m glad I could be part of that.”
Lopez, a senior, led Pine Creek with 16 points, including four 3-pointers. Fellow senior Robinson added three 3-pointers in a 15-point effort as the Eagles made 10 3-pointers on the night.
“In the second half, they started pressing, and it gave us a chance to transition,” Lopez said. “We had more open shots, and we were able to hit most of them.”
Dalton Coker’s baseline jumper with 2:10 left in the third quarter gave Pine Creek its first lead at 35-33. Then Lopez hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to extend the lead to five as momentum swung heavily toward the green and blue.
Sparks, limited to only two points on 0-for-4 shooting, then responded by hitting consecutive 3-pointers as part of an 8-0 run to end the third quarter, and the Lancers reclaimed the lead at 41-38.
“I wasn’t aggressive in the first half, and I needed to be in the second half,” Sparks said. “Gabriel had a great first half, then did a good job passing out when they started doubling down on him. I have a lot of confidence in my shot, and my coach has a lot of confidence in me.”
Lincoln threatened to run away with the game early, leading 16-7 with 4:51 left in the second quarter after a Jose Arenas 3-pointer from the left corner. Vazquez overpowered the Eagles down low, scoring 13 of his team’s 24 points in the first half.
Thanks to a late 10-2 run, Pine Creek tied the game at 22 before Sparks converted two free throws after drawing a foul as time expired to end the first half.