ARVADA — Just less than 30 percent of Ralston Valley boys basketball team’s wins so far this season have come against one team — Arvada West.
The Mustangs (11-6, 2-0 in Class 5A Jeffco) managed to defeat rival A-West (7-8, 1-1) for the third time this season Jan. 26 on the Wildcats’ home court.
“It’s awesome,” Ralston Valley senior Zach Akin said of the trio of victories over the Mustangs’ chief rival. “It’s tough to beat a team three times. It feels really good, especially to beat them in their house. It’s a good win to start league for sure.”
The Arvada-area rivals faced off at the Fairview Tournament before winter break and then matched up again in a non-league game back on Jan. 14 at Ralston Valley High School. Despite the third different location, it was the same result with the Mustangs taking a 61-41 win this time around.
A-West coach Jeff Perriott’s squad did give Ralston Valley a better test from just a dozen days ago. The Wildcats came out with a lot of energy taking an early lead.
“He is such a good coach and such a good game planner, we knew he would have something new against us, especially being the third time around,” Ralston Valley coach Chris Braketa said of Perriott. “I respect Jeff a lot. He has helped me out a lot being a young coach.”
What helped the Mustangs pull away a bit in the second half was a 11-0 run midway through the third quarter. Akin led the charge in the 22-point quarter for Ralston Valley. The senior guard had 9 points in the quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers.
“That third quarter has been big for us all season,” Akin said. “We’ve had a lot of close games going into halftime and then we breakout in the third quarter. It was good to do that again tonight.”
Ralston Valley took a 45-28 lead going into the fourth quarter. A-West senior Adam Espinosa scored 7 points early in the fourth quarter to cut the Mustangs’ lead to 49-37, but Ralston Valley answered with a 10-0 run to put the game out of reach.
Freshman Tanner Braketa poured in 7 of his team-high 14 points in the final quarter. Akin finished with 13 points while the Mustangs had seven other players contribute in the scoring column.
“We are really nine deep. Those guys can score and to give them the confidence that they are all good players,” Coach Braketa said. “When we are all scoring we are pretty hard to beat.”
A-West was led by junior Zion Thomas. The Wildcats’ starting guard finished with 12 points, most coming on drives to the basket.
“(Thomas) was hard to keep out of the middle tonight,” Coach Braketa said of Thomas. “He did a really good job tonight getting into the paint and making things happen.”
It was Ralston Valley’s conference opener with the Mustangs’ have a bye during the first night of league play in the 9-team league last week.
“Everyone wants to win league,” Akin said. “Games matter all season, but these league games now matter a little bit more.”
Dennis Pleuss is the Sports Information Director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com.