State 3A boys basketball: Eagle Ridge season ends in Elite 8

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DENVER -- The faces were long as the Eagle Ridge Academy boys basketball team piled out of the locker room at Hamilton Arena March 10.

It wasn't because of the just-concluded season loss (St. Mary's, the top seed in class 3A, beat the Warriors 91-68), a campaign in which ERA won 21 games, hosted and won a district basketball tournament for the first time and advanced to the state 3A basketball quarterfinals for the first time.

"The season was great," said junior guard Peyton Torres. "We made tons of memories, and I played with some great teammates. We broke some school records, got the Elite 8 and, overall, had a fun season."

Torres finished with a team-high 18 points. Hunter Hill added 14, while James Kyren Allen and Cameron (CJ) Siefert added a dozen. Sam Howery led the Pirates with 34 points. Ely Ferrera scored his 15 points on the strength of five, 3-point baskets. Andon Mindrup added 14.

Allen called the season "really great."

"I'm proud of the team. We worked hard during practices, during games. We pushed ourselves," Allen said. "I didn't think we'd get this far. I'm proud of my team, and I can't wait to see what happens next year."

Eagle Ridge and the Pirates stayed on even terms for much of the first half. But St. Mary's speed and ability to adjust on the fly were too much for the Warriors. SMHS went on a 12-point spurt late in the second quarter to seize control. Allen scored successive baskets to bring the Warriors to within four points. But the Pirates scored 12 of the last 16 points to close out the half.

St. Mary's steadily pulled away from Eagle Ridge in the second half.

"I think tonight we came out well," Hill said.  "We needed to limit the turnovers and slow down the game to our pace."

"St. Mary's played an exceptional game. They shot the ball well," ERA coach Jay Powell said. "They have a couple of good players. They are well-coached. You can't take anything away from them. We definitely played outside ourselves. That's what got us."

"We had a rough start," Allen said. "We couldn't stop 0 (Howery). We slowed down. We got too comfortable, and that's what really messed us up. They started pressing us, and we couldn't get the ball down the court. We knew they were a good team. We just didn't execute."

"Unfortunately, we didn’t end with a ring. But we did what we could and just worked hard to try and come back," Torres said. "First quarter, we were matching energy, then St. Mary's went on that 12-point run and we couldn’t gather the momentum we needed."

ERA loses three seniors off the roster to graduation.

"This season was great. We went farther than anyone expected us to," Hill said. "We showed that we are one of the best teams in 3A and will continue to be in the future."

"They've never been in this situation," Powell said. "We fought. We showed a lot of resilience. We have to learn from it. It didn't finish the way we wanted. But we'll be better next year."

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