LITTLETON — Columbine’s boys basketball team has found its closer this season.
Senior Davian Bryant was key on both end of the court in the final minutes for the Rebels on Jan. 18. The 6-foot-7 senior had a pair of huge buckets in the final three minutes in Columbine’s 61-55 victory over rival Dakota Ridge.
“He is a big part of our team,” Columbine junior Ty Afraimi said of Bryant. “We rely on him so much. We kind of rely on him too much. I feel bad for him. He does a lot of work for us. We are glad to have him.”
Bryant was a force defensively, especially late. Dakota Ridge (8-7, 1-0 in Class 5A Jeffco) had battled back to take a 55-54 lead after a goaltending call against Bryant on a baseline floater by junior Alex Rodriguez with 3:44 left in the fourth quarter.
However, it would be the final points for the Eagles. Columbine finished the game on a 7-0 run started by Bryant’s two inside buckets, including a thunderous dunk.
“That kid’s ceiling is off the charts,” Columbine coach Randy Perkins said of Bryant. “Just have to feed him some more peanut butter. Put some weight on him. He is special. He has a big heart and plays hard. We are going to go as far as he takes us.”
Bryant was actually called for a trio of goaltending calls in the second half. Perkins said he didn’t mind the calls as it got the Rebels’ and their student section fired up down the stretch.
Afraimi hit a big 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter and his driving shot with a minute left pushed the Rebels’ lead to 60-55. The junior guard finished with a game-high 18 points. Junior Tyler Casey (12 point) closed out the scoring with a free throw in the final minute and Bryant finished his night with 10 points.
“We were focused on just getting a win,” Afraimi admitted after the victory against the Rebels’ cross-town rival. “We were on a 2-game losing streak. It was time to get back on track. I think this win will propel us forward and bring us together.”
Moving forward, the Rebels (9-6, 1-0) opened 5A Jeffco League play at home Jan. 21 against Valor Christian. Columbine took a 68-50 win with Afraimi leading the way with 23 points.
“It’s a big win,” Perkins said. “It doesn’t matter if it is conference or non-conference. Anytime you play Dakota Ridge or Chatfield they are big wins. We’ll take the wins any way we can get them.”
Columbine had a 4-game winning streak before Winter Break, but had lost 3-of-4 games before the victory against Dakota Ridge.
“I’m really proud of my guys,” Perkins said. “The key is to get a little better each game. By the end of the season, we are going to be something special. We haven’t come close to peaking.”
Dakota Ridge has had a similar rollcoaster road so far. The Eagles are 5-5 in their last 10 games where they haven’t win two games in a row. Dakota Ridge did defeat rival Chatfield by 17 points Jan. 14.
Rodriguez has been leading the way. The junior guard had 17 points against Columbine. Senior Milos Jankovic had a solid game battling Bryant in the post. Jankovic finished with 14 points.
“They have good players over there,” Afraimi said of Dakota Ridge. “We had to play good defense when they crawled back into it and took the lead. We had to hit some big shots.”
The Eagles did start league play with a home victory over Bear Creek on Jan. 21.
Dennis Pleuss is the Sports Information Director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com.