ARVADA — Ralston Valley’s boys basketball team finished out the game Feb. 26 like it would like to finish out the season — strong.
The No. 15-seeded Mustangs outscored No. 47 Fountain-Fort Carson 23-6 in the fourth quarter to win the second-round Class 5A boys basketball state tournament game going away. Ralston Valley won 79-47 to advance to next week’s Sweet 16.
“It was a good one,” Ralston Valley senior Zach Friedman said after the win. “We definitely had a good week off and a good week of practice.”
The Mustangs (17-6 record) took advantage of the bye after going through the 5A Jeffco League undefeated and grabbing a top-16 seed.
“We were focused and had a good week of practice,” Ralston Valley senior Zack Akin said after pouring in 20 points, including three 3-pointers in the second half.
Akin and freshman sensation Tanner Braketa led the way for the Mustangs. Braketa had a game-high 25 points in his first postseason game. Akin and Braketa combined to go 7-for-15 from 3-point range. Overall, Ralston Valley shot 53 percent from the field.
“Those guys did a great job,” Friedman said of Braketa and Akin knocking down five 3-pointers in the third quarter to keep pace with Fountain-Fort Carson’s scoring barrage. “They really do a good job on the outside spacing the floor. No matter if its mid-range or long-range (shots) there are going to get it done.”
The Trojans (8-16) hung around scoring 20 points in the third quarter. Senior Caleb Whitehead had 10 points in the quarter to give Fountain-Fort Carson a fighting change. However, it seemed like anytime the Trojans looked to make a run Braketa or Akin would answer with a 3-pointer.
“That third quarter has been good to us all year,” Akin said. “We hit some big 3-pointers in that quarter and buried them for sure.”
Ralston Valley really sealed it in the fourth quarter. Eight different Mustangs scored as Coach Chris Braketa was able to empty his bench in the final few minutes.
Ralston Valley faces No. 2 Fossil Ridge in the Sweet 16 on Wednesday, March 2, after press deadline. The Sabercats (23-1 record) took a 76-53 home victory against Monarch up in Fort Collins on Saturday afternoon.
“Honestly, we are the underdog,” Coach Braketa said going up against Fossil Ridge. “They are the No. 2 seed for a reason. We are playing really well right now. I like our group.”
The Mustangs are on a 9-game winning streak with their last loss coming back on Jan. 18 against Rangeview.
“We have really gelled as a team,” Friedman said. “We are ready to make a run. All along our goal has been to make it to the Coliseum. On Wednesday night we’ll get that opportunity to get there.”
It was the last home game of the season for Ralston Valley with the road game Wednesday and a win sending the Mustangs to the state quarterfinals at the Denver Coliseum on Saturday, March 5.
“It’s kind of surreal being the last home game,” Akin said. “Great to get a win. Couldn’t be happier.”
Dennis Pleuss is the Sports Information Director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com.