A switch flipped for the Sand Creek boys’ basketball players midway through the fourth quarter of their Class 4A tournament-opening game against Sierra.
Down by 23, suddenly the Scorpions were playing like their season was on the line.
But despite an awe-inspiring comeback, in which Sand Creek outscored Sierra 28-19, the No. 38 Scorpions fell to No. 27 Sierra 74-65, coming within five points of victory in the final minute of play.
The scrappy Scorpions capitalized on a number of Sierra turnovers in the fourth quarter, at one point putting up a 16-2 run thanks to takeaways.
“I thought we had played pretty well up to that point, but we just lost our poise and couldn’t regain our composure,” said Sierra coach Terry Dunn. “(Sand Creek) really came at us in the fourth and made us guard the dribble. They were relentless on the boards and their press hurt us a bit.”
Thankfully for the Stallions, a dominant first quarter in which they outscored Sand Creek 26-11 kept them in the game. With 21 seconds remaining, the Scorpions were down by five and began intentionally fouling Sierra. Junior guard Ramsey Whitaker and senior forward Eddie Whitmore both hit their respective free throws to give the Stallions a cushion with seconds remaining.
“At this time of the year it’s survive and advance,” Dunn said, adding that his team was in survival mode in the fourth quarter. “We built a sizable lead and I didn’t think we did a very good job of protecting it, but we did a good job at the end going to the line and converting our free throws.”
Whitmore finished with a game-high 24 points, followed by Isaiah Wilburn with 19. Imani Grigsby scored 13.
Dunn said Whitmore played best in the first half, in which he led the team with 15 points, while Wilburn took over in the second.
“I think Isaiah was key to the game on both ends, rebounding and scoring,” Dunn said. “In the second half of the season he has really come along as a player, and has become really cerebral and letting the game come to him. He’s putting all of the pieces together at the right time.”
Sand Creek was led by sophomore Markus Ramirez with 13 points, followed by Izaiah Jordan with 12.
Jevaughn Williams led the Scorpions with three steals and two blocks.
Sierra will move on to play No. 6 Pueblo West in the second round. In December, Sierra handed the Cyclones their first loss of the season in a 56-53 win in Pueblo.