Legend pulled away from Ponderosa in the fourth quarter for a 52-41 Continental League victory that was extra special for the Titans' Curtis Laborda.
Laborda came off the bench to help spark a 10-0 run to start the fourth quarter that triggered the win in the Feb. 7 game in Legend's Coliseum.
“I went to Pondo my freshman year and transferred here,” said Laborda. “The whole game I was thinking, I don't want to lose, I don't want to lose. I wanted to do whatever I could so we didn't lose.”
The game was tied at 35-all heading into the fourth quarter. Legend's Ian Reiss-Hodges hit two free throws. Then Laborda, a 6-foot-4 senior who relieved 6-8 senior Zach Mihalicz, worked around Ponderosa's 6-10 Jonathan Barnes for two baskets as the Titans built a 45-35 lead before the Mustangs managed to score with 4:16 left in the game.
Laborda's first bucket in the Titans early fourth quarter spree was text book as he went around Barnes for the layup and was fouled. He did miss the ensuing free throw but less than a minute later added another basket with a strong inside move.
“I went in when Zach got into foul trouble, I had to work the big guy and get him out of the post,” said Laborda. “When the ball came to me on the wing that's my spot. That's my move, just dribble right and take it in. I saw it and took the chance. It paid off.”
Legend outscored Pondo 17-6 in the fourth quarter and the Titans (14-5, 6-1) remained tied for second place in the Continental League.
Elijah Cherrington had 17 points to lead the Titans. Monroe Porter finished with seven points and a team high seven rebounds.
“They shot 50 percent in the first half and a lot of those were layups in the second quarter to get the lead,” said Legend coach Kevin Boley. “We tighten up defensively and held them to 25.5 percent shooting in the second half.
“Then guys were more aggressive going to the basket, especially Elijah and Ian got a couple fouls there and Curtis made a huge play against Barnes. We were more aggressive. The truth is when we took Zach out and kind of spread the floor, it was harder for them to guard us.”
Legend made only 24 of the 40 free throws it attempted but hit five of six attempts from the charity stripe in the final 1:50 of the game. Porter sank four straight free throws after the Mustangs had pulled to within seven points in the final minute.
“It was a close game and going into the fourth I knew we could do it,” said Laborda. “It just depended on if we wanted to do it. EC (Cherrington) stepped up and we got to the line. We kept driving, got the fouls and got the free throws.”
Ponderosa coach Mike Gibbs suspected his team didn't feel that it could do it.
“The fourth quarter was horrible,” admitted Gibbs. “That was the worst quarter of basketball we've played all year. Hats off to Legend, they beat us. They are a good basketball team. Unfortunately we didn't play hard in the fourth quarter. We just kind of gave up. We laid down and said oh well we're not good enough so let's give up.
“The team needs to know that. When you play, good things happen. When you decide not to play, bad things happen. I've got to coach better, that's on me. I've got a find a way to get those guys motivated in the fourth quarter.”
Legend has four tough games to close the regular season. The Titans played at Douglas County Feb. 11 and entertain Highlands Ranch Feb. 14. Mountain Vista comes to the Coliseum Feb. 18 before a league finale at Chaparral Feb. 21.
Barnes had 14 points to pace Pondo against the Titans and the Class 4A Mustangs (9-9, 1-6) hosted Heritage Feb. 11 and entertained Littleton Feb. 14 before a non-league game against Arapahoe Feb. 15. Ponderosa ends the regular season at Highlands Ranch Feb. 18 and plays Regis Jesuit Feb. 21 at home.
“We have to bounce back,” said Barnes. “We'll be all right. We're a good basketball team. We're young. I've only got two guys on the team with varsity experience.”