Sabercats pick up first league win
Occupants of the bottom third in the Continental League boys basketball standings, Castle View and Littleton each badly needed a victory in Friday night’s game, though for slightly different reasons: the Sabercats to avoid going 0-7 in conference play, the Lions to improve their position for a Class 5A postseason berth.
Chalk up the elusive first league win for Castle View, which dominated a Littleton team that could do little right for a 68-45 home victory that snapped a seven-game overall losing streak and the Lions’ modest two-game winning streak.
Coming off a four-win season (1-10 Continental) in 2012 and with just one senior, expectations weren’t great for the Sabercats, who have found the going difficult since moving up to 5A for the 2010-11 season. But Castle View had won four in a row before the seven-game skid, and its 6-13 overall record indicates progress is being made.
“We needed it,’’ Sabercats guard Zach Mattice said of the victory. “We want to think every game we have a chance to win. But that one we thought we had a real good chance. We thought we could match up with them athletically, and we’re shooting the ball really well right now.’’
Castle View scorched Littleton with 54 percent shooting in building a 40-13 halftime lead. The Sabercats cooled off in the third quarter but still finished just under 50 percent (20-of-42) for the game.
“We composed ourselves,’’ said Mattice, who scored a game-high 22 points that included a pair of 3-point baskets and 12-of-12 from the foul line (Castle View was 23-30 as a team to Littleton’s 7-9). “We were able to handle their pressure, see through it and hit the open guy.’’
The 68 points (it easily could have been more) was Castle View’s second-highest total of the season, surpassed only in an 80-50 win over Hinkley on Jan. 4.
“We’ve lost a lot of close games,’’ said coach Tory Mansfield. “If we’d won some of those close ones we’d be about where I had thought. We’re hoping to build on this win and make a push here.’’
Castle View still has Mountain Vista on Tuesday and ThunderRidge left, but also has potentially winnable games against Rock Canyon and Douglas County.
Littleton had already faced the league’s heavyweights, and had hoped to ride the momentum of wins over Rock Canyon and Douglas County into its first playoff berth since 2009.
But first-year coach Dan Ellis’ team (8-11, 2-5) laid an egg Friday and now must regroup if it is to make 5A’s 48-team playoff field. The Lions still have a chance to record the program’s most wins since picking up 10 in 2010.
“We’ve got to win the last four, and they’re a lot better than the team we played tonight,’’ Ellis said. “This puts a damper on (our postseason chances) because we really couldn’t afford to lose one.’’
Littleton played undisciplined basketball in the first half, and paid for it. The Lions turned the ball over on their first six possessions (leading to eight Sabercats points) and shot 15 percent from the floor (both 2’s and 3’s, including 2-of-13 for the latter) for the first half. They didn’t score from the floor for the final five minutes-plus of the second quarter.
Ellis was seething afterward.
“That was a (terrible) effort; there’s no other way to say it,’’ he said. “We played selfish, lazy, took ‘em lightly. All the things we’ve done the last few games we got away from. We didn’t come ready to play. Bad attitudes. It is what it is.’’
The head coach at Adams City the previous seven years, Ellis has been “trying to change the culture’’ at Littleton, “the way we prepare, putting more emphasis on thinking of winning and emphasizing defense.’’
Until Friday, Ellis thought the message was getting through to his senior-dominated team that had benefited in the previous seven games from the addition of 6-7 junior Tim Ladwig and the return of point guard Gentry Girton following a five-game suspension earlier in the season. “We might have 12 wins with those two,’’ Ellis said before Friday’s game.
Nicolas Giordano and Tyus Gallegos-Jones led the Lions with 10 points each against Castle View, but neither one scored in the first half. Giordano got hot at the end of the third quarter and Gallegos-Jones scored all of his points in the fourth.
Ellis didn’t mind that his team put up 13 treys in the first half. “We’re a 3-point shooting team, but I don’t like one pass and a shot,’’ he said.