Sabercats lose first game of the season, finish runner-up in competitive Chap/TR Tournament


Domenic Leone attempting a shot against ThunderRidge.

Dylan Heinrich, Sports Writer

The Fossil Ridge boys basketball team finished the Chaparral/ThunderRidge tournament 2-1 against a pair of elite teams.

Fossil continued their hot start in their opening round matchup against Arapahoe, defeating them 76-48. The Sabercats led by only five entering halftime, but turned it up in the final two quarters to earn the blowout victory. Matthew Boldt, Ty Brown, and Colin Hayes all racked up 11 points for the day. But the biggest performance came once again from Nick Randall, who scored 29 points and nabbed 10 rebounds.

This win led to a second round matchup and state final rematch with the ThunderRidge Grizzlies. With appearances from most of the state’s top teams, a packed student section, and even Colorado head coach Tad Boyle, the tension in the gym was palpable. 

Fossil wasn’t phased by the environment early on, jumping out to a 12-3 lead early in the first quarter. But ThunderRidge began to climb back slowly, cutting the Sabercats’ lead down to two points at the end of the first half. 

The two teams continued to trade buckets back and forth, but a final shot from Fossil extended their lead to five through three quarters. The Grizzlies refused to go away, going on a 14-8 run to start the fourth quarter and take their first lead of the game at 60-59. Another short ThunderRidge run extended their lead to six with less than a minute remaining in the game. Now in desperation mode, the Sabercats began to cycle the ball before getting it into the hands of a wide-open Drew Larson, who sank a massive three to cut the lead to one possession. After the Grizzlies missed a free throw, Fossil would get one final chance to tie the game. With twenty seconds left on the clock, Matthew Boldt drained a contested triple to tie the game at 67. 

Boldt’s game tying shot at the end of regulation. Fossil had only made one three pointer before adding two more to tie the game.

“There was no play design,” Boldt said. “I just caught it on the wing…looked at the clock, and just shot it…I practiced that shot tens of thousands of times over the summer, so it was just muscle memory at that point.”

But with time still on the clock, it was up to Ty Brown to guard 6’6” ThunderRidge junior Andrew Crawford. Crawford tallied 29 points during the game, but wasn’t able to score any here as Brown’s defense held strong. 

“He drove on me…I was just straight up on him and made sure that he wasn’t going to make it,” Brown said.

Fossil carried the momentum into overtime, jumping out a 73-69 lead after two points from Domenic Leone and four from Brown. 

However ThunderRidge refused to go away, hitting a big three to cut the lead down to one. Colin Hayes hit a tough layup to extend the lead to three, but another triple from the Grizzlies tied the game at 75, and necessitated a second overtime.

The second overtime started similarly to the first, the Sabercats jumped out to another four-point advantage after a pair of free throws from Brown and a layup from Randall. ThunderRidge responded once again, with a four-point run of their own to tie things up. 

With under a minute left in overtime, Randall made a putback shot to put the Sabercats up two again. After the Grizzlies missed a transition three-pointer, Randall was fouled and made a free throw to extend the lead to three. 

Randall was once again Fossil’s leading scorer and rebounder, with 30 points and 16 rebounds against the defending state champs. 

Randall heading in for a layup.

After yet another defensive stop, Brown hit another two free throws to put Fossil up five with eleven seconds left. 

Brown’s scoring came alive in overtime, scoring eight of his 17 points during the combined eight minutes of extra time. 

ThunderRidge added another two points, but it was too little too late, as Fossil Ridge avenged their state title loss on the road 84-81 in double overtime. 

The importance of this win was certainly evident when speaking with the team and head coach Matt Johannsen. 

“Guys just stepped up and made plays,” Johannsen said. “What a great high school basketball game…both teams making huge shots and getting good defensive possessions…[winning] against a good  team on their home court is extra special.”

“It’s way better to beat them on their own court,” Brown said. “One of our goals is to go undefeated on our home court, and it was great to break that goal for them.”

Unfortunately the celebration didn’t last long, as Fossil lost another tight matchup to Valor Christian 70-68 during the championship of the tournament. Valor started the game on top, leading the Sabercats 17-13 after the first quarter. But Fossil Ridge fought back and eventually held a 54-52 lead heading into the fourth. After a closely contested final quarter, Valor Christian was able to sneak by off a last second layup.

Despite the loss the Sabercats had plenty of notable performances. Fossil had three players in double digits, including Brown with 11 and Hays with 10. Randall wrapped up the tournament with another dominant performance with 28 points and eight rebounds. 

Through their first six games, Fossil Ridge currently sits at 5-1 and has cemented themselves as one of the best all around teams in the state. But they know the season is still early, and that there is plenty of room for improvement. 

“We got guys that can definitely play,” coach Johannsen said. “But we still haven’t put it all together yet, that’s the scary thing. We’re still not playing our best basketball. So once we do, I like where we’re going to be.”

The Sabercats will now travel to Arizona for a pair of out-of-state games coming up on Friday, December 16 and Saturday, December 17.

Fossil will match up against Ranch Solano Prep and Valley Vista on the trip out of state.