Mountain Vista makes Final Four
Golden Eagles avenge 2013 semifinal loss, beat Eaglecrest
Jake Pemberton ignored the high-pressure situation and came through in the clutch for the Mountain Vista boys basketball team.
Pemberton calmly sank two free throws with 7.1 seconds left to snap a tie and propel the Golden Eagles to a 65-61 victory over Eaglecrest March 7 in the Class 5A state quarterfinals at the Denver Coliseum.
Mountain Vista (25-1) will make its second consecutive Final Four appearance when the Golden Eagles confront unbeaten Fossil Ridge (26-0) in an 8:30 p.m. semifinal matchup March 14 at the CU Events Center.
Eaglecrest, the defending state champions, beat Mountain Vista in last season's Class 5A semifinals, but Pemberton's two free throws were followed by a desperation shot by the Raptors that missed and a pair of free throws by Graham Smith with one second remaining. And the Golden Eagles avenged last year's setback.
“I was thinking about it when I was walking to the line and knew it could be for the game,” admitted Pemberton. “Then I told myself it was like any other shot. I didn't think about it because I would probably miss if I thought about it. I just shot. They both went in. I was just feeling it from the foul line.”
Mountain Vista coach Bob Wood said he felt confident with Pemberton shooting with the game on the line.
“I was happy Jake was going to the line because he shoots 80 percent,” said Wood. “I'd rather have him there than anybody else. If you told me you have seven seconds to go and you have your best free throw shooter on the line, I'd take that.
“That's what happened. Jake hit them and they didn't get a very good shot and we got the rebound.”
Mountain Vista trailed 28-25 at halftime, but the Golden Eagles came out motivated in the third quarter, grabbed the lead and at one point built it up to seven points.
“Probably the coach's speech was the difference in the third quarter,” confessed Pemberton. “He was so upset. In the first half we weren't playing well. We've been down at halftime. We've been there before. Coach gave a great speech. We came out pumped and ready to go.”
Wood wouldn't recite his halftime discourse but did praise his team for its gritty composure.
“We didn't play a very good first half,” he said. “We turned the ball over nine times, we shot 25 percent ... part of it was we were nervous and part of it was Eaglecrest was really good on defense.
“I thought we did a great job in the third quarter. We got to the basket, we got some fouls, made some free throws, got penetration and got some good looks at the hoop. In the fourth quarter it was back and forth. Again we made enough plays down the stretch and made enough free throws to hold on. This is a resilient team, they've been behind a few times and they come back.”
Mountain Vista held a 61-55 lead with 1:40 to play but Eaglecrest used a 3-point basket and free throws by Elijah Ross to tie the game with 13.7 seconds remaining.
Pemberton was then fouled driving to the basket and sank the key free throws.
“Last year we lost to Eaglecrest to go to the state championship,” said Pemberton. “They were the defending state champions and this year it was good to beat them to go to the Final Four.”
Fossil Ridge, one of four top-seeds to make the semifinals, presents another challenge for Mountain Vista whose only loss this season came to Arapahoe — a team Fossil Ridge just eliminated in the quarterfinals.
“We always look to the next game,” said Pemberton. “If we play really well the whole game, we can have a chance to play for the state championship. Coach always tells us we have the potential to be the best team in the state if we all play like we can.”