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Cheyenne Mountain reaches quarterfinals for first time in boys' basketball
PUEBLO – Cheyenne Mountain has claimed a whopping 77 state championships since 1958. None have come in boys’ basketball.
Behind a monster, 18-point, 14-rebound effort from Donivan Harville, the No. 3 seed Indians took another step toward the goal Saturday, smothering No. 2 Pueblo East, 46-37 at the State Fair Events Center to advance to the 4A boys quarterfinals for the first time in school history.
“Our game is to outwork the other team,” Harville said. “We feel confident that when we play harder, we’ll be on top.”
The Indians (19-6) held the Eagles (20-3) 23 points under their season average.
“We like to get out there and run, but they slowed us town and forced us out of our comfort zone,” said Eagles junior forward Jimmy Valdez, who scored 10 points but only one basket came from the field. “They dictated the tempo. We played their game, not ours.”
After a back-and-forth first quarter, Cheyenne Mountain took the lead for good when Harville hit three consecutive short jumpers to key a 9-0 run that gave the Indians a 19-12 advantage with 5:09 left in the second quarter.
Harville scored 13 of his points by halftime.
“Donivan was outstanding,” Cheyenne coach J'on St. Clair said. “He was the MVP of this game. A performance like that was huge when others weren’t finding their shots.”
East appeared to take momentum into the locker room after a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Ty Gavin trimmed the deficit to 21-18. But the Indians never allowed the Eagles a momentum-changing run. Pueblo East scored four straight points only three times.
TJ Gradisar’s steal and layup closed the Indians' lead to 40-37 with 2:01 left, but the Eagles were shut out the rest of the way. Cheyenne Mountain hit all six free throws down the stretch.
“This is how we needed to win,” said St. Clair, who took Rampart's boys to the 5A quarterfinals in 2010. “We knew if we could keep them under 50, we’d have a shot. We had a good scouting report of how we wanted to defend them, and our kids just executed.”
Nathan Resty added nine points for the Indians, while junior guard Ghassan Nehme, sidelined the past four games with a dislocated kneecap, had only seven.
“It was one of those games when you’re not shooting well, but you have to do other things to help the team,” Nehme said. “I wasn’t making the shots I normally make, but I tried to play my best on defense and grab rebounds. I’m glad we all contributed and came out winners.”
The Indians knew prior to tipoff that Pikes Peak Athletic Conference rival Lewis-Palmer had already defeated Evergreen, and that the victor in Pueblo would meet the defending 4A state champions March 9 at the Denver Coliseum.
The Rangers swept the Indians in the regular-season series. Nehme missed both games.
“We’re coming in with fire,” Nehme said. “We’re done celebrating this one. Now, all of our focus in on LP.”