Highlands Ranch lost its rhythm in the second half and lost the game.
Dominique Collier and Denver East pulled away from the Falcons in the second half and posted a 64-44 Great 8 triumph March 7 at the Denver Coliseum.
There were six lead changes and seven ties in the first half as the teams battled to a 23-23 halftime tie. Collier went on a scoring spree in the second quarter, however, that carried into the second half, and the Angels outscored Highlands Ranch, 41-21, in the final two quarters.
“Their length hurt us a little bit and the passing lanes were covered up,” said Highlands Ranch coach Bob Caton. “We got out of rhythm and once we got out of rhythm it was pretty tough. They are a tough team. And Collier showed why he's the player he is. I was very happy with the first half but unfortunately the game didn't end then.”
Highlands Ranch led 11-8 in the first quarter but Collier, the 6-foot-2 senior who will play next season for the University of Colorado, scored the next 26 points for East which seized a 34-25 lead with 4:47 left in the third quarter.
Collier finished with 32 points and never realized he had scored 26 consecutive points for the Angels.
“I was trying to provide for my teammates on the offensive end and pick it up on the defense,” he said. “In the first quarter I didn't have much energy on defense or offense. I just had to pick it up.”
Zach Braxton, a 6-9 senior, led Highlands Ranch with 20 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Keith Coleman finished with 11 points but the other three Falcons starters combined for only two points.
Highlands Ranch committed 19 turnovers, shot 35.3 percent from the floor, made only 3-of-11 free throws and finished the season with an 18-8 record.
“Our kids played tremendous this year,” said Caton. “They came through and stuck in there. Their teamwork was just great.”
Five seniors will graduate but Caton will have seven players off of his state tournament roster returning.
“We have a good nucleus back so we have something to build on,” he said. “Losing the kids we lose is tough. They had great careers.
“We've been to the Great 8 four out of the last five years. We're going to try to keep it going. The younger players have to get into the gym, get better and hopefully a couple of them will grow a little bit. It was a great season.”