Arapahoe and Cherry Creek were looking for a bounce-back victory in last Wednesday’s Centennial League boys basketball opener, the fifth-ranked Warriors after suffering their first loss and the Bruins after losing their final game prior to the holiday break.
Thanks to Sam Stoveall, Cherry Creek got back into the win column first. One of the Bruins’ three returning players, Stoveall showed why he is coach Mike Brookhart’s go-to guy in 2012-13. The 6-1 senior delivered the tying basket late in regulation and cemented a 59-57 upset at home by nailing a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left in the second overtime.
“He’s our best offensive player, no question,’’ Brookhart said of Stoveall, who scored a game-high 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting that included 3-of-5 on treys. “Great players make great plays.’’
Stoveall averaged 18.9 points as Creek went 5-4 in non-league play. He topped 20 points for the fourth time against Arapahoe, the Bruins’ first game since Dec. 22, and ran his streak of two or more 3-pointers in a game to nine straight.
“I’ve got to be confident in that situation because I’m the one they want to shoot it,’’ Stoveall said of his game-winner. “It’s funny because that’s not the play we were trying to run. I got confused and just wanted to get the ball and make sure I could get a good shot.’’
Cherry Creek had lost seven straight to Arapahoe, which reached Class 5A’s Final Four the last two years, losing to Chaparral in the 2012 final, and won 25 games each season.
“We talked about that before the game,’’ Stoveall said. “It was a big motivation. This was definitely a huge win, especially it being the first league game on our home court. It was a good way to open up.’’
Arapahoe, ranked No. 3 before losing to No. 2 Mountain Vista in its first game back from the break, rallied in the second half despite playing without 6-5 senior Evan Walsh (sprained wrist), who averages 10.4 points. The Warriors (8-2) trailed by nine points in the third quarter and were seven down after Stoveall scored with 2:56 left in regulation.
Matt Glasscock and Brandon Till combined for nine unanswered Arapahoe points. Till, a junior transfer from Cherry Creek whose playing time increased in Walsh’s absence, drilled a 3-pointer for the Warriors’ first lead of the game, 53-51, with 50 seconds left.
But Stoveall scored from inside to send the game to overtime and, after a scoreless first extra session hit his `3’ for a 58-57 lead. Graham Pingree (15 points including 6-of-10 shooting) made one of two free throws with 3.4 seconds left.
“It was a really tough league loss; I’m not too concerned about the (second-straight) loss,’’ said Arapahoe coach Dan Snyder. “I’m proud of the kids for coming back and their effort. Our execution n wasn’t great, but the effort was.’’
The Warriors shot 51 percent from the floor including 4-9 in treys, but were just 7-of-14 from the foul line including 0-3 in the two overtimes (Creek went 9-11 from the stripe). Glassock and Till each hit two free throws at the end of regulation.
Glasscock, who did not play regularly last year but was averaging 9.4 points coming into the game, led the Warriors with 16 points. Till (with three treys) and point guard Thomas Trotman had 12 apiece. Trotman had eight of his points to keep Arapahoe from falling behind by more in the third quarter
The Warriors stayed in contention by making 10 3-pointers to Cherry Creek’s four. “Our offense is designed to get a lot of 3’s,’’ Snyder said.
Snyder said he expects Walsh to return as early as this week. “He’s a difference-maker for us,’’ Snyder said. “First of all, he’s 6-5 and a very good shooter. He presents a matchup problem because of his size.’’
Creek’s record coming in was a bit deceptive, with losses to No. 1 Denver East, Highlands Ranch and Thomas Jefferson, ranked fourth in 4A, the latter two in the Bruins’ holiday tournament. Creek also lost one of three games during a trip to Las Vegas.
Asked if this was the Bruins’ best game to date, Brookhart replied, “When you play 40 minutes and give 57 points, you’ve got to be pleased with the way you play defense.’’
But Brookhart wouldn’t call it a landmark victory. Hopefully momentum will carry, but it’s just one win,’’ he said. “There’s 13 more games in the league and they’re all tough.’’
Indeed, Cherry Creek traveled to No. 8 Eaglecrest on Friday and lost 53-48 as Stoveall struggled, scoring nine points on 4-of-16 shooting, while the Bruins shot 36 percent from the floor.
Meanwhile, Arapahoe rebounded from its two losses to begin the calendar year with a 95-48 rout of Smoky Hill. Glasscock led six Warriors in double figures scoring, with Till getting 13 and three of Arapahoe’s six 3-pointers.