Arapahoe High School’s boys basketball team, with help from others, is taking steps to get back to normal.
A week after Karl Pierson walked into Arapahoe High with a shotgun and fatally wounded 17-year-old senior Claire Davis before killing himself, the Warriors played host Rock Canyon in the Rock Canyon Winter Classic.
The Dec. 20 game was typical for Arapahoe, the state’s ninth-ranked Class 5A team, as the Warriors scrapped and executed down the stretch to escape with a 54-53 win over the Jaguars.
Student sections from both schools exchanged cheers like normal, the teams competed hard and Rock Canyon did its best to ease the dreadful memories for Arapahoe students, players and fans.
Students from both schools were invited to a pizza party before the game. Instead of admission to the tournament games on the first two days, donations were accepted for Arapahoe and the Claire Davis fund. More than $3,500 was raised.
And at halftime, the Arapahoe student section was invited to join the Rock Canyon students, who held up a sign that read: “Rock Canyon Jags (heart) Warriors.”
“It was great for Arapahoe to get back to some normalcy,” said Rock Canyon Athletic Director Tom Brieske. “It was good to see the students cheering back and forth. We invited the students out and said we were having a pizza potluck. It was important to show support for Arapahoe.”
“It was the toughest week any of us have ever been through and probably will ever go through,” said Arapahoe senior guard Brendan Till. “To step back on the court these past couple days has been a step towards normalcy. Just getting back into a routine is the best thing for all of us. It takes our mind off the horrible tragedy that happened last Friday.
“Our thoughts and prayers as a team, as a community and a school are out to Claire Davis, who is still battling. As a community we will keep healing together.”
Till scored 22 points, 14 in the second half, and sank the winning free throws with 13.7 seconds to play.
The 6-foot-2 Till missed a contested layup on a backdoor play but got his own rebound and was fouled. He sank both free throws and the Warriors foiled a last second shot by the Jaguars to win the game.
“Those were tough free throws,” Till said. “We practice clutch free throws every day. It’s no surprise for us to be in these kinds of situations. We had to pull together as a team.”
Arapahoe coach Dan Snyder lauded Till’s play.
“He had a great second half,” Snyder said. “Those were very big free throws. Either team could have won that game. With the emotional situation, you never know. Rock Canyon played real well.
“It’s been kind of surreal. Being able to play has given us some normalcy. It’s been hard. It’s been a tough situation. We feel awful for Claire Davis and (it’s been) a tough situation for the Arapahoe community, but people have responded.”
The encouragement Arapahoe has received has been a boost.
“The support we have gotten all over the place has been unbelievable,” said Snyder. “The calls I’ve gotten and the kids have gotten have been terrific. And it really shows how strong of a community we have and not only Arapahoe High School. Rock Canyon has been fabulous and a whole bunch of other schools have been terrific. It shows the kids what Colorado is about.”
James Dalrymple added 14 points for the Warriors, who trailed by as many as 10 in the first half. Ethan Brunhofer added 10 points while Tyler Garcia was the Jaguars’ top scorer with 17 points.