Men’s basketball 5A: Fossil Ridge has been in the Final Four since 2014

It was like deja vu but in a different place on Saturday afternoon.

Red-hot Fossil Ridge beat Legacy by 32 points during the regular season and nearly tied that margin in the rematch at the Denver Coliseum with an impressive 80-54 Class 5A Great 8 win.

The second-seeded SaberCats under coach Matt Johannsen kept their foot on the pedal and made sure they weren’t the latest victim of upstart Lightning – who dispatched No.7 Horizon and No. No. 10 Regis Jesuit in their last two games – and earned the program’s first Final Four appearance since 2014.

“What we preach to kids is that it’s basketball,” Johannsen said. “It doesn’t matter who we play or where we play. It could be on the black roof outside or in the Colosseum, it doesn’t matter. A shot goes up, you always have to block, don’t you You always have to play good defense. They adhered to that.”

“I had a lot of teams that were like whatever, let me do my thing. But this team is special because they stick to that stuff. When you get everybody going in the right leadership, it’s amazing what you can accomplish.”

What Fossil Ridge has accomplished so far is impressive.

Going into their semi-final on March 11 against the winner of the last quarter-final between No. 6 Eaglecrest and No. 3 Chaparral, the SaberCats have won 20 games in a row and are undefeated since the calendar changed to 2022, as their only loss of the season came to defending state champion and first-tier ThunderRidge heading into winter break.

Fossil Ridge’s average winning margin this season has been 21 points and it has improved with contributions from four double-digit players. Domenic Leone finished with 18 points, Tyler Brown 17, Brock Mishak 15 and Nick Randall 14.

All four scored at least seven points in the first half as the SaberCats came out right away.

“We knew we had to mind our own business and we knew that if we did what we do best, we would get the results we wanted,” Brown said.

Two 3-pointers from Brown helped Fossil Ridge take an 11-4 lead with 4:45 left in the first quarter. Included in the opening flurry was six points from Leone, who averaged 6.6 ppg for the season but gave up 17.7 ppg in the playoffs.

A healthy 23-11 lead increased to 35-18 on a 9-0 run in the second quarter and 44-22 at the break when Brown came on alone for a late comeback.

“Legacy are a good team, they’re here for a reason, but I think our defense did a really good job setting the tone in the first half,” Johannsen said.

The Sabercats continued to take advantage early in the third quarter scoring 13 of the first 15 points to extend the lead to 57-24. Legacy responded with a 13-0 run as they tried to recapture some of the magic that had made them the remaining Cinderella of the playoffs.

Jack Debell finished with 16 points and Ethan Wise 10 for the Lightning.

Fossil Ridge was not to be discouraged, however, as they emerged from a timeout with six straight games to regain control.

From there it was the descent to the semi-finals for the SaberCats, who celebrated in a more reserved way than a team that had accomplished something that hadn’t been done in some time given that they had bigger goals to achieve.

“It’s amazing to be here and going to the Final Four,” Brown said. “I think we’ll be ready for what’s next.”

Comments are closed.