A strong third quarter gave Wheat Ridge’s boys basketball team a double-digit lead heading into the fourth quarter against Lincoln on Tuesday, Dec. 7.
However, the Farmers had to hang on by the skin of their teeth to pull out a 60-58 victory.
“I told them it was ugly, but celebrate the win,” Wheat Ridge coach Tommy Dowd said of his message to his squad after the game. “You got to be happy to get the win. I know I am.”
Lincoln (1-5 record) trailed 58-56 with 17.3 seconds to play in the fourth quarter. The Lancers had the ball and senior Javier Vega got off an open shot from 3-point range, but the ball wouldn’t fall. Wheat Ridge junior Ronin McGlothlin grabbed the rebound and was fouled.
McGlothlin made both free throws to pretty much seal the season-opening victory for the Farmers (1-0).
“It was a tough one and I think we can play way better as a team,” said Wheat Ridge junior Devon Zurcher, who led the Farmers with 20 points.
Wheat Ridge trailed 30-28 at halftime on its home court. The Farmers graduated nearly every varsity player their 2000-21 team. Zurcher is actually one of the few players who had varsity experience before Tuesday’s season opener.
“I was nervous because I’m the only returning (varsity) player from last year,” Zurcher said. “We struggled a lot, but after tonight I think we’ll be all right.”
The Farmers looked all right in the third quarter. It was by far Wheat Ridge’s best quarter as the Farmers outscored the Lancers 23-11. Zurcher, along with fellow junior Sam McCune and senior Kahlil Ballenger combined for 19 points in the quarter.
“If we would have played like we did in the third quarter for all four quarters we would have blown them out,” Zurcher said.
Lincoln battle back in the fourth thanks to an outstanding night from Keiondre Palmer. The senior guard poured in a game-high 27 points that included going 13-for-15 from the free-throw line.
“He (Palmer) is good and he shot a lot of free throws too,” Zurcher said.
Wheat Ridge as a team shot just a dozen free throws for the entire game. The Farmers struggled offensively in the fourth quarter. A couple of buckets early in the quarter from Zurcher and a basket from sophomore Nick Dalton was the only three made field goals in the final eight minutes for Wheat Ridge.
“Nobody wanted the ball,” Dowd said of the final five minutes of the game when the Farmers didn’t have a field goal. “We don’t have anyone yet who is comfortable to handle the ball at the end of the game. In the third quarter they did great. In the fourth quarter it was like a different game.”
However, the Farmers did enough defensively in the final minutes to hold off the surge by the Lancers. Wheat Ridge is back in action next week when it hosts old rival Lakewood on Tuesday, Dec. 14. The Farmers also play in Mullen’s Christmas Classic Invitational that begins Thursday, Dec. 16.
Dennis Pleuss is the Sports Information Director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com.