CENTENNIAL | Friday night’s Eaglecrest vs. Overland showdown remained a marquee matchup despite the absence of its marquee player.
The Raptors took advantage of the absence of 6-foot-9 Trailblazers’ junior center De’Ron Davis — who was present, but not suited up for the game — with a strong second half on their way to a 66-54 victory in front of a packed house at ‘The Nest’ that gave them an early leg up in the Centennial League.
Senior Blend Avdili poured in game-high 24 points in a variety of ways and senior Elijah Ross made 15 of 18 free throw attempts on his way to 19 points as Eaglecrest (7-3), ranked No. 7 in the latest Associated Press Class 5A media poll, pulled way from No. 6 Overland in the second half.
While pleased with the early victory — which gave his team a share of the Centennial League lead along with Cherokee Trail — Eaglecrest coach John Olander couldn’t help but be disappointed that the Trailblazers didn’t have their standout center in the lineup after two physical contests earlier in the week.
“I wish he was playing; you don’t want to see that when you have two really good teams, you want to test yourself,” Olander said. “Not that we didn’t get tested. They still have two DIs (Austin Conway and Ryan Swan) and some really good players. … I think both teams struggled early because of the magnitude of this this game, which was like a playoff game. Wins are big in this league.”
The Trailblazers (6-5, 1-1) — who led by as many as six points early in the second half — had three players in double figures, with Conway leading the way with 16 points, junior Reggie Gibson added 12 and Swan chipping in 10.
Even without Davis, Eaglecrest struggled in the first half and got scoring from only three players, as Avdili scored 10, Ross nine and Peter Anderson two as it went into the lockerroom in a 21-21 tie with Overland.
Sophomore Colbey Ross, the Raptors’ leading scorer, finished with zero points in the opening half.
Eaglecrest got more aggressive in the second half, however, with Avdili hurting the Trailblazers from both the inside and outside.
“De’Ron’s a great player, obviously, but it’s not as hard to get to the basket without him in there,” Avdili said. “I was feeling it and my teammates were trusting me, that was the big thing.”
Colbey Ross contributed all 10 of his points in the second half and Elijah Ross hit the majority of his 15 made free throws (on 18 attempts) in the second half as the Raptors managed to withstand a few Overland spurts to maintain a fairly comfortable lead.
The teams meet again on Feb. 4 at Overland, which comes early in the second round of the Centennial League schedule.
Last season, the teams squared off in the regular season finale with the league championship on the line.
“It’s kindof fun when it comes down to the wire,” Olander said. “That’s what I told our guys, ‘this is who we are and these are the games we play because you guys have brought us to this point.’ That’s what we want.”
Though there is a lot basketball to be played before then, Avdili can’t wait for the rematch and hopes Davis will be on the floor.
“I love playing De’Ron and Austin and those guys,” Avdili said. “I have a lot of respect for them and I just love playing against them.”
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
(7) EAGLECREST 66, (6) OVERLAND 54
Score by quarters:
Overland 9 12 18 15 — 54
Eaglecrest 11 10 23 22 — 66
Reggie Gibson 4 3-5 12, Austin Conway 6 2-4 16, Padiet Wang 2 2-2 6, Ryan Swan 3 3-5 10, King Grant-Perry 1 1-2 3, Alijah Halliburton 2 0-0 4, Bruce Jackson Jr. 1 0-0 3, Asad Yousef 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 11-18 54.
Elijah Ross 2 15-18 19, Colbey Ross 3 3-4 10, Peter Anderson 4 0-1 9, Blend Avdili 10 2-3 24, Nate Bokol 2 0-0 4, Darian Turner 0 0-0 0, Anthony Karmazyn 0 0-0 0, Kody Bitterman 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 20-25 66.
3-point field goals — Overland (5): Austin Conway 2, Reggie Gibson, Bruce Jackson Jr., Ryan Swan; Eaglecrest (4): Blend Avdili 2, Peter Anderson, Colbey Ross. Total fouls — Overland 24 , Eaglecrest 16. Fouled out — Overland: King Grant-Perry, Alijah Halliburton. Technical fouls — None.