Warriors fall shy of Final Four

Sabercats top Arapahoe in Class 5A playoffs

Tom Munds
Arapahoe's Ethan Brunhofer (11) drives past a slew of Fossil Ridge defenders to get to the basket March 7 during the Class 5A state quarterfinals. Brunhofer paced the Warrior attack with 22 points but Fossil Ridge remained unbeaten with a 68-58 win.
Tom Munds
Nick Farman pushes the ball toward the basket for Arapahoe during a March 5 Sweet 16 playoff game against Smoky Hill. The Warriors staged a second-half comeback to win the game 63-59, advancing to final eight in the Class 5A state playoffs.

The disappointment on the faces of the Arapahoe players and coaches was clear after the Warriors were eliminated in the Class 5A state boys basketball tournament, 68-58, by undefeated and top-seeded Fossil Ridge.

“Fossil Ridge is a good team and they deserved to win tonight,” Warrior Coach Dan Snyder said after the March 7 game at the Denver Coliseum. “We played well in the first half but the way we played in the third quarter was awful. In that quarter, we didn't get stops when they were on offense and we committed far too many fouls. They are a good team and you can't give them easy points and expect to win.”

Snyder said he and the players talked before the opening tipoff about the fact a high-scoring game would be to Fossil Ridge's advantage.

“They have been a high-scoring team all season while we tend to play a style that results in low-scoring games,” Snyder said.

A prime example of the Sabercats' potent offense came in the third quarter when the team exploded for 23 points. Snyder that quarter proved to be the difference despite a determined effort by the Warriors in the final period.

“I am proud of the fact we didn't quit and kept trying to get back into the game,” he said. “But the fouls we committed piled up and hurt us, plus they killed us on the boards.”

Ethan Brunhofer was the leading scorer for the Warriors with 22 points and teammate Corbin Atwell had 18. Brunhofer also led the team in rebounds with nine.

The Warriors, whose season ended at 20-6 with the Great 8 loss, made it to the Denver Coliseum for the sixth consecutive year. Entering the 48-team tournament as a No. 3 seed, Arapahoe came off a first-round bye to best Rock Canyon 58-49. The Warriors followed that up with a dramatic, come-from-behind 63-59 win March 5 over Smoky Hill in the Sweet 16.

Trailing 30-21 to the Buffaloes at halftime, Arapahoe pulled even at 38-all with time expiring in the third quarter. Brunhofer scored nine of his 24 points in the fourth quarter as the Warriors went ahead to stay. Atwell also piped in 24 for Arapahoe in the win and Brendan Till added 13 points.

Arapahoe kept things close with Fossil Ridge early in the Great 8, trailing by seven after one and cutting the Sabercat lead to 29-25 at the half. That's when Fossil Ridge exploded, outscoring Arapahoe 23-12 in the third to take a 53-37 advantage into the final quarter which proved to be too large a lead to overcome.

“We felt good coming into the game,” said Arapahoe senior captain Chris Davis. “We felt we did well in the first two quarters and were in a good position at halftime. But, in the third quarter, we didn't rebound well, we missed some shots and we lost control of the game at that point.”

While Arapahoe will lose 10 seniors off its roster from this season, Snyder said it is an issue the coaching staff is used to facing.

“We are used to most of the players graduating each season,” he said. “This year, we had no returning starters, last year we had one returning starter and the year before we had no returning starters, so rebuilding the team each year is nothing new to us.

“We are able to do it because we have a great program that enables us to rebuild good teams each year. We have good players coming from youth basketball programs and we have solid junior varsity and lower level teams. We have good players eager to work to try to earn spots on next year's varsity.

“We have to rebuild but we are ready to do it again.”