Something about Arapahoe this season brought out the best in Cherry Creek and Sam Stoveall.
“It’s always a tough one, but it’s one of my favorite games to play,’’ the Creek senior said Friday night after the Bruins completed a season sweep of the Warriors with a 46-43 road victory. “We love playing Arapahoe because they play the same style as us.’’
Until this season, it was tough love for Creek. The Warriors - 25-game winners with trips to Class 5A’s Final Four each of the last two seasons - took six straight from the Bruins the previous three years.
“We haven’t beaten Arapahoe twice since they got in the league (in the 2008-09 season), so that’s a real thing,’’ said Creek coach Mike Brookhart. “And more importantly, it’s a league win.’’
It also vaulted Creek (10-7, 5-3) past Arapahoe (12-5, 4-4) into fourth place and a game behind tri-leaders Eaglecrest, Cherokee Trail and Grandview one game into the second half of the Centennial schedule. The seventh-ranked Warriors, who had won three straight before losing to Cherokee Trail and the Bruins this week, will likely fall out of the top 10.
“It’s great for our confidence, especially getting them twice because they’re a good team and they’re going to win more games,’’ Stoveall said.
The rematch was every bit as tight as Creek’s double-overtime victory on Jan. 9, where Stoveall scored 21 points and hit a game-winning 3-point basket with 15 seconds left. This time, Stoveall scored 20 points - his seventh game in the 20s this season - and was part of a Creek defense that denied Arapahoe a potential game-tying 3-pointer.
Arapahoe rallied from four points down with 3:20 left despite losing center and second-leading scorer Matt Glasscock (6 points) on fouls at the 4:58 mark. Evan Walsh (5 points) and Mitch Albyn (team-high 14) each got the Warriors within a point before Bruins center Graham Pingree (6 points before fouling out late) scored inside to make it 46-43.
Arapahoe missed two 3-pointers, but got a reprieve when Creek’s Griffin Parr missed the front end of a one-and-one with 31.9 seconds left and Pingree was called for an offensive foul with 26.6 seconds left after rebounding the missed free throw. But the Bruins’ defense hounded Walsh and Brendan Till - Arapahoe’s two best 3-point shooters - and Walsh’s attempt with Will Bower’s hand in his face missed the mark.
“We talked about that,’’ Brookhart said. “We knew who was going to shoot.’’
Arapahoe often lives or dies by the 3-pointer, and Friday it was the latter. The Warriors shot 2-of-15 (.133) from beyond the arc but were 16-32 on 2’s.
“Our halfcourt defense is our strong suit,’’ Stoveall said. “We really take pride in it, and it works. That’s why we were able to pull it out there at the end.’’
“We didn’t shoot well tonight against a very good team that played good defense,’’ said Arapahoe coach Dan Snyder. “We played really hard and I thought their team played really hard. We just didn’t execute enough, and it was a lot of little things. There were some critical plays that we didn’t make.’’
Arapahoe built the game’s biggest lead, 18-13, early in the second quarter, but Creek rallied behind Stoveall to tie it 20-20 before the Warriors took a 24-22 halftime lead.
Creek took the lead for good in the third quarter, with Stoveall scoring seven of his team’s 13 points and the Bruins crashing the offensive boards for seven second-chance points in a reversal of the first half when Arapahoe had eight second-chance points.
“We got killed (on the boards) in the first half,’’ Stoveall said. “To me, (second-half rebounding) was the main reason we were able to take the lead, because we took away their second possessions.’’
Creek also worked its way to the foul line more than Arapahoe, going 11-of-15 to the Warriors’ 5-8, much to the chagrin of Snyder.
“I’m really proud of the kids,’’ Brookhart said. “I thought we persevered. I though we really handled things down the stretch: we made foul shots, we got the ball to the right kids at the right time. Kids like Quentin Welu (7 points) and Caesar Jones stepped up coming off the bench. And Griffin Parr (7 points) was really, really good. And, obviously, Sam Stoveall.’’