HIGHLANDS RANCH – A runaway victory was one of Mountain Vista’s goals heading into the March 6 Sweet 16 playoff game against Monarch in the Golden Eagles’ gym.
Mountain Vista ended the regular season with 4-point and a 3-point losses in two of the last three games. Then, the Golden Eagles opened the Class 5A playoffs with a last-second 59-57 win over Abraham Lincoln.
The Golden Eagles took out their frustrations on Monarch with a 75-60 romp, which moved Mountain Vista into the March 8 Great Eight at the Denver Coliseum.
Mountain Vista (22-2) will play Cherokee Trail (18-7), with the winning team advancing to next week’s Final Four. Cherokee Trail held off Cherry Creek, 61-59 on March 6.
“Before the game we were talking that we wanted to blow out a team to just get our spark back,” junior forward Jake Pemberton said. “The last couple games have been kind of close so we just wanted to get our confidence back and blow out a team.
“We wanted to make sure we ran a lot and we made that happen.”
The game was tied at 7-all when the Golden Eagles, sparked by two 3-pointers by Elijah Valdez, went on a 13-1 run to end the quarter.
“I know I’m a big part of our offense and making shots was definitely a good thing,” said Valdez who had a game-high 24 points.
Mountain Vista led by 24 points at halftime as the Coyotes went five minutes without a field goal for a period in the second and third quarters. Monarch paraded to the free throw line in the third quarter and trimmed the deficit to 16 points as Mountain Vista was called for its 10th foul of the half with 2:39 left in the third stanza.
“We just stayed aggressive,” Pemberton said. “If we get in foul trouble coach (Bob Wood) doesn’t say back off, he says don’t be stupid.”
Mountain Vista ended the third quarter with a 9-0 run and 14 points was as close as the Coyotes could come the rest of the game as the Golden Eagles responded with eight straight points to curtail any Monarch comeback hopes.
Valdez hit five of Mountain Vista’s 3-point baskets. Pemberton, who had 15 points, had the other triple. The Golden Eagles also had a double figure effort from Mitch Carter with 10 points.
Kyle Billingsley came off the bench to lead Monarch (19-6) with 21 points. Leading scorer Ben Beauchamp was held to 13 points and he didn’t make 3-point, shot which was another of Mountain Vista’s goals.
Mountain Vista will be making its second straight Great Eight appearance. The Golden Eagles lost, 66-55, to Highlands Ranch last season at the Coliseum.
“We got back to where we were last year and being there again, we have the experience and we know what to do now,” Valdez said. “Last year we were a little overwhelmed by the atmosphere. This year we know what we have to do and I think we are ready.
“We have to keep playing our game. We are playing good ball right now. We just have to go out and play the style of basketball we’ve been playing and do the things we’ve been doing to get the wins.”
Pemberton, who had 15 points in the win over Monarch, claims Mountain Vista won’t be intimidated.
“We learned from last year not to be scared,” he said. “We have the experience and we’ll come in confident. It’s nice to be there but we are focused on beating Cherokee Trail. We want to get past them, get to the Final Four and the state championship.”
Other Great Eight games March 8 find Legend (20-6) playing Fairview (22-3), Arapahoe (19-7) taking on Denver East (23-2) and Regis Jesuit (21-4) battling Eaglecrest (20-5).